After an air conditioning malfunction raised temperatures in the AT&T Center and resulted in some unshakable cramping for LeBron James, the sports media ran wild with headlines, sound bytes and tweets referencing the Heat's inability to "handle the heat" in Game 1.
If you're not a fan of puns, you likely didn't care much for the coverage. But if you're a fan of the Spurs you probably didn't mind it all that much, either.
Kawhi Leonard wasn't there
Tim Duncan and Tony Parker missed four straight free throws late in the game and Manu Ginobili seemed to be trying just a bit too hard down the stretch. But for the Spurs to have a chance at the title, Kawhi Leonard will have to show up.
With a 110-95 Game 1 win, San Antonio's magic number is down to three. Three more wins to cap off an unforgettable season and one of the greatest stories of collective redemption in NBA history, further enshrining the legacy of Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan.
But let's cool our jets for now, as Game 2 on Sunday will likely see a re-energized Miami team looking to keep a small piece of their own legacy going: the Heat have never gone down 0-2 in a playoff series since LeBron arrived.
After ripping victory from the Heat through a dominating fourth-quarter performance (outscoring Miami 36 to 17 on 14 of 16 shooting from the field), the Spurs have a chance to gain that crucial 2-0 Finals edge on Sunday. As with the first three quarters of Game 1, it won't be an easy affair, and the Spurs can't count on the same hot shooting performance for the rest of the series.
Offensively, it takes an entirely different bag of tricks for the Spurs to find open looks again the Heat. Miami's defense is reactive and disruptive enough to get into passing lanes and take away San Antonio's usual first and second options. Thanks to some clever switching and creasing on pick-and-rolls, along with some carelessness by the Spurs, Miami was able to force San Antonio into coughing the ball up an uncharacteristic number of times -- 22 -- leading to 14 steals and 27 fast-break points (the most remarkable of which being the Jesus Shuttlesworth impression put on by 38-year-old Ray Allen).
Those 22 turnovers -- 17 of which were committed by starters Tim, Tony, Kawhi and Tiago -- are going to have to go down in Game 2. It's easier said than done, however, as playing against Miami's style of defense often calls for San Antonio to take more chances on their passes. When those chances don't work out, there are few better than LeBron James and Dwyane Wade at making teams pay in the open court.
With any 15-point victory, there are positives to take away. Tim Duncan was aggressive around the hoop, and benefited from a number of precise entry passes (many from Manu Ginobili, who led the Spurs with 11 assists on the night). The GOAT PUFF finished with 9 of 10 shooting, leading the way on a fantastic shooting night for the team on the whole (59% from the field). Danny Green was able to find his stroke late, which could be crucial moving forward as he further continues to leave behind the demons from Games 6 and 7.
Boris Diaw was one of the few Spurs who didn't have a great shooting night (1 of 5 from the field), but did just about everything else right, contributing 10 boards and 6 assists, as well as a game-high plus-30 in 33 minutes of play.
After playing 37 minutes in Game 1, it looks like Tony Parker and his ankle are feeling fine. Tony was effective in pushing the ball against Miami, and the Heat players struggled with keeping him out of the paint. The number-one victim of this was point guard Mario Chalmers, who racked up five fouls in just 17 minutes of play, and appeared to mentally check out somewhere along the way. Chalmers also had five turnovers in the game, and it'll be interesting to see if coach Erik Spoelstra decides to go more with Norris Cole, as he did against Indiana.
Interestingly enough, Tiago Splitter (who famously received a huge contract this summer after seeing very little playing time against Miami in last year's Finals) got the start in Game 1. Pop put Splitter on Chris Bosh for most of the game, leaving Duncan to guard the slightly rangier Rashard Lewis. Aside from some hot shooting from Bosh at the starts of the first and fourth quarters, the matchup seemed to work out well on both sides.
Dwyane Wade was a handful on offense, getting into the lane with ease and showing his ability to hit from deep, but looked awful on defense. At this point, his impact on that end is limited to what turnovers he can create by gambling.
As it's been throughout the postseason, and especially with both respective Big Threes looking strong, matchups will dictate how each game goes, and what roles that players like Splitter, Patty Mills and even Matt Bonner and Cory Joseph (both DNPs in Game 1) play.
Game 1's ratings were reportedly tied for the second highest since 2004, and Game 2 should continue to be gripping theater for all watching -- regardless of any unexpected circumstances. Grab an isotonic beverage, stretch appropriately beforehand, and get ready for some more great basketball.
Matchup to watch: Kawhi on LeBron (again). I think that we'll have one game this series that we call 'the Kawhi Leonard Game', where Whi puts together 30-35 minutes of two-way brilliance against the greatest player in the world. Even if that doesn't happen, Leonard can still be counted on as the number one thorn in LeBron's side -- well, besides heat, dehydration, and sleeved jerseys. He only saw the floor for 24 minutes on Thursday night due to foul trouble, and LeBron relished any moment those herculean hands weren't in his face or denying him the ball. He took on Boris Diaw any chance he had, going right at Bobo and either finishing at the hoop or getting to the line.
|Game 2, 2014 NBA Finals|
|June 8, 2014|
|AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX|
|7:00 pm CST|
|TV: ABC - Radio: 1200 WOAI|
|Mario Chalmers||PG||Tony Parker|
|Dwyane Wade||SG||Danny Green|
|LeBron James||SF||Kawhi Leonard|
|Shane Battier||PF||Tim Duncan|
|Chris Bosh||C||Tiago Splitter|
|91.2 (27th)||Pace||95.0 (10th)|
|110.9 (5th)||ORtg||110.4 (7th)|
|105.8 (11th)||DRtg||102.4 (3rd)|
Game Prediction: Spurs by 5.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, for real this time, and you can get your San Antonio Spurs tickets from Daniel Farias with Spurs Sports & Entertainment:
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