What a crazy night that was. When an “electrical failure” knocked out the A/C in the San Antonio arena, it was the Spurs that best handled the heat in the room, and best handled the Heat on the court. In the sweltering kitchen that was the AT&T Centre, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili served up a steaming hot dish of defeat to Miami. And the image of the night that will generate the most post-game discussion was that of Lebron James limping off the court and down the tunnel with the game not yet over.
The game started off pretty even, with Ginobili making the biggest mark in the first quarter, despite coming off the bench. For the Heat, it was Dwayne Wade who dazzled in the first, a fake-and-spin that bamboozled Tim Duncan a highlight. Chris Bosh also hit his shots early on, and set the Heat up well, with Lebron seemingly biding his time. But Ginobili, thrice punishing some sagging Miami defence, hit some big three pointers, and kickstarted the Spurs. He was doing it all, scoring, making plays for other team mates and defending well. Miami kept pace though, and it may have been because Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard didn’t get started at all in the first half; both finished the half with 0 points, with each player only attempting 2 shots. 10 points from Ray Allen had also bolstered Miami by the time the halftime horn sounded.
So, as the AC continued to malfunction, the room got hotter and hotter. You felt as much for the San Antonio cheerleaders, in their leather (maybe pleather?) chaps almost as much as the players. The fans were fanning themselves in the stands, and the players were dripping on the bench. Leonard and Green scored early in the 3rd quarter, but then went back to the torrid play they’d shown in the first half. Ray Allen, on the other hand, continued his excellent play, punctuated by an incredible coast-to-coast slam, Lebron-style. Speaking of Lebron, he was looking wrecked, still playing well, but really feeling the bad conditions. It became apparent at this point that Mario Chalmers had been a no-show in this game. When he picked up his 5th foul in the 3rd quarter, he called attention to his totals of 0 points, 1 assist, 1 rebound and 3 turnovers. It ended up a very, very bad game for the starting Miami point guard.
Meanwhile, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade had rallied the Heat to a 4 point lead by the end of the 3rd quarter. They opened it up to a 5 point lead early in the fourth. But then something big happened, to both teams. Firstly, Danny Green decided to play some ball. He hit a three early in the 4th, to bring the Spurs within 1. It was his first field goal. Then he hit another not long after. Then an amazing breakaway dunk. Then another 3-pointer. All of a sudden, he had 13 points. This momentum switch was compounded by Lebron’s literal collapse in the final stages of the game. King James had looked close to exhausted for the whole 4th quarter, and had been on the bench for a lot of it. When he came back on, he scored a typical driving layup. Everything seemed back to normal. But then he couldn’t even make it back down the court to defend, and the Heat had to quickly foul to avoid a 5 on 4 situation. He was basically carried off the court, and didn’t return. The sight of your leader leaving the game with 2 minutes still to go was too much for the Heat, and they collapsed to a 110-95 defeat. Lebron will get a lot of flack after this game, and a lot of it will take credit away from the Spurs; Parker finished with 19 points and 8 assists. Duncan had 21 points and 10 rebounds. And Manu Ginobili, possibly the night’s star performer, finished with 16 points and a remarkable 11 assists. The Spurs bench, Patty Mills, Boris Diaw, all of them were excellent. San Antonio deserve this Game 1 win, and they did it playing through the heat as well. Miami will welcome the 2 days off.