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The San Antonio Spurs pushed back a relentless Miami Heat team in unusual temperatures at the AT&T Center in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, to take an early 1-0 series lead. The Spurs’ 110-95 victory now marks the sixth time they have won in Game 1 of an NBA Finals series dating back to 1999.
Temperatures reached well over 90 degrees inside the AT&T Center as the AC system underwent an electrical failure resulting in sweltering heat for the players and for the fans. Despite this, the ageless Tim Duncan wound back the clock again to lead the Spurs with 21 points, 10 rebounds and three assists going 9-for-10 from the field.
“I thought we played through it well,” said Duncan after the game in regards to the temperature in the stadium. “It definitely affected both teams. It got to a couple different guys and cramps started setting in. I thought Pop continued to switch guys in and out, keep us as fresh as possible and we finally got to a point where we took care of the ball and we got a chance to make a run and made ’em pay.”
The Spurs trailed going into the fourth quarter 78-74. A series of turnovers, runs, and close plays pulled the Spurs to within two with the score 86-84 with six minutes to play. The game turned in the last few minutes as Danny Green hit back-to-back three pointers to put the Spurs up 90-88 with 5:33 remaining. With the score 94-92 in favor of the Spurs, two-time Finals MVP LeBron James checked out of the game with 3:59 remaining due to severe cramping.
“I mean, it’s frustration and anger, but at the same time it’s something that you try to prevent, you try to control,” said James after the game on the temperature affecting his cramps. “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 the last couple of days out there on the floor.”
The Spurs capitalized on James’ absence and proceeded to go on a 16-3 run to end the game. Danny Green led the way, scoring 11 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter after starting the game 0-for-5 from the field.
“That’s what he does, you know,” said Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich on Danny Green’s play. “That’s his major skill. If he’s not going to do that, then we might as well play somebody else. That’s the honest to God truth. I thought the percentages were with him. So we stuck him back out there and he came through.“
San Antonio turned the ball over 23 times throughout the game — their worst of the 2014 playoffs — but still managed to win. Miami failed to capitilize on the Spurs’ sloppy play scoring just 28 points from the turnovers, only one point more than San Antonio’s points off turnovers.
“For us that’s the Achilles heel,” commented Popovich on his team’s turnovers. “When we have a game like that turnover wise, invariably it’s a loss for us. I haven’t looked at any stats, I’m afraid to, but I guess we probably made threes. We made a decent number of threes. I think we rebounded pretty well from where I was sitting. But the turnovers are usually a killer. We feel very fortunate to have won this game tonight.”
Despite the temperature, the Spurs managed to get contributions from veterans Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Parker ended the game with 19 points and eight assists, while Ginobili finished with 16 points and 11 assists. Both international veterans seemed unfazed by the blistering temperature.
“Me personally it didn’t bother me, felt like in Europe,” said Parker after the game on the temperature. “Felt like I was playing in the European Championship. We never have AC in Europe, so it didn’t bother me at all.”
“It’s the same heat for both, and we did okay,” added Ginobili after the game on the temperature in the stadium. “We moved the ball and I don’t think we turned the ball over because of the temperature or the heat, so I don’t think it was a big factor. I don’t know if LeBron’s situation was — this was the reason for that. I don’t think we suffered as much. And for sure I play more years in situations like this than with AC on the court. Not a big deal in that case.”
The AC system should be repaired and ready to go for game two on Sunday, June 8. The Spurs and Heat will both be undoubtedly roaring to go as the Finals continue.
Game 2 tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.