Welcome back to Flagrant 2, your a.m. recap of the night in sports. And while we presume there were other games going on, this morning, we’re all about Game 1 of the NBA Finals
The AC went out, LeBron limped off, and the Spurs got hot at the right time, taking a 1-0 lead in the series. Grab an ice pack and let’s get right to the recap.
Spurs Stay Cool, Take Game 1
The days leading up to the NBA Finals were full of hot air, in the form of tepid “trash talk” between the Spurs and the Heat. Game 1 was full of hot air, too, but it was the kind filling San Antonio’s AT&T Center after the building’s air conditioning broke, raising the temperature inside and officially becoming a storyline.
Players covered themselves in ice packs, coaches limited minutes and LeBron James cramped so badly that he was forced to miss the final four minutes of the fourth quarter. The Spurs’ Danny Green caught fire in his absence, and San Antonio sweated out a 110-95 win.
For three quarters, Game 1 was a back-and-forth battle between the league’s two best teams. But in the fourth, the heat officially became a factor. With temperatures approaching 90 degrees on the court, James wilted. When he first began experience cramps at the 8-minute mark, Miami was up 4. He briefly returned, dashing to the rim on a layup, then signaled to the Heat bench that he was unable to continue. From that moment on, the Spurs seized control, with Green hitting a trio of threes. San Antonio ended the game on a 16-3 run.
Tim Duncan finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds, Tony Parker had 19 and Manu Ginobili chipped in 16 and 11 assists. Despite missing much of the fourth, James led all scorers with 25. Dwyane Wade added 19 in a losing effort.
Game 2 is Sunday night in San Antonio. As Spurs coach Gregg Popovich joked in his postgame press conference, “And hopefully we can pay our bills.”
Taking the Temperature After the Air Conditioner Game
It’s the topic that will dominate discussion today, tomorrow and presumably Sunday, too: The heat, and the toll it took on LeBron’s legs.
Or, more specifically, his left leg.
“It was damn near the whole left side,” James told reporters following the game. “I was losing a lot [of fluids] throughout the game. It was extremely hot in the building, you know, both teams, fans, everybody could feel it. I was the one that had to take the shot.”
There’s no question the temperature inside the AT&T Center played a factor in deciding Game 1 – “It was significant” was how Tim Duncan described it, presumably using his allotted words for the month – forcing the game’s best player during the deciding minutes. And while the sight of James limping to the Heat bench had purists howling about the sweltering heat inside old venues like the Boston Garden and Chicago Stadium, this isn’t the NBA of yesteryear. The game is faster, the athletes more akin to finely tuned thoroughbreds. And to extend that metaphor, in Game 1, James threw a shoe.
“It’s frustration and anger, but at the same time, it’s something that you try to prevent, you try to control,” he said. “I mean, I got all the fluids I need to get, I do my normal routine I’ve done and it was inevitable for me tonight, throughout the conditions, you know, out there on the floor. I lost all the fluids that I was putting in over the last couple of days out there on the floor. It sucks not being out there for your team, especially at this point in the season.”
Sucks indeed. And while both coaches downplayed the degree (get it?!?) to which the temperature affected the game, it’s all but certain that Game 1 will go down in NBA history as “the Air Conditioner Game,” for better or worse.
“It was an unusual environment, but both teams had to deal with it,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters. “It felt like a punch in the gut when you see your leader limping to the bench.”