In Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals, the Miami Heat couldn't stop the San Antonio Spurs. Neither could the San Antonio heat.
With temperatures swelling to right around triple digits thanks to a broken air conditioning unit inside the AT&T Center, Tim Duncan led a balanced effort with 21 points and LeBron James missed much of a critical fourth quarter thanks to leg cramping, as the Spurs escaped with a 110-95 win and 1-0 series lead.
NBA on ESPN provided Gregg Popovich's thoughts after the game:
Manu Ginobili had 16 points and 11 assists, Tiago Splitter, Tony Parker and Danny Green were all in double figures and the Spurs overcame 22 turnovers by shooting a scorching 58.8 percent from the field.
James had 25 points and four other Heat members were in double figures, but San Antonio went on a huge run in the fourth quarter—as LeBron watched from the sidelines—to close out the game.
Although noted X-factors Kawhi Leonard and Green combined to shoot 0-of-4 in the first half, the Spurs were still able to carry a 54-49 lead into the break, thanks in large part to their original "Big Three."
ESPN Stats & Info noted their immense impact:
Duncan led the way with 15 points, but it was Ginobili who made a crucial impact off the bench, tallying a loaded stat line of 11 points, three rebounds, five assists and three steals.
A balanced effort from the Heat—four players were in double figures—kept them close, however, and NBA.com gave a glance at the first-half shot charts from each team:
The sweltering temperatures continued to have a noticeable effect after halftime. James, who asked to come to the bench midway through the third quarter in a rare moment, made his feelings clear, via Turner Sports' Rachel Nichols:
The horrendous conditions went both ways, though, and as the third quarter drew on, the Spurs' play began to deteriorate much quicker. They turned the ball over eight times in the period, leading to multiple baskets for the Heat, including this old-school finish from Ray Allen:
After holding San Antonio to just 20 points in the third quarter, Miami was able to take a 78-74 lead into the final 12 minutes.
As the turnovers continued to pile up and Miami's lead ballooned to seven points, Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix noted the unusual play coming from the Spurs:
San Antonio sharpened its game and bounced back with a quick 5-0 run, however, ending with a Miami timeout and James limping to the bench again asking to be taken out.
Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears painted the picture with seven minutes left to play:
Green immediately knocked down a pair of threes, his first two made baskets of the game, and the Spurs regained the lead for the first time in nearly 12 minutes of game time.
That forced James back into action at the 4:33 mark. He proceeded to get to the hoop, cut the deficit to two with a layup and once again come up cramping. It was significantly worse this time around, as Mannix noted:
He went back to the bench—slowly—and San Antonio closed out the game on a 16-3 run.
It's a shame to see any game play out like this, let alone the opener of the NBA finals. Fortunately, with two full days off before Sunday's Game 2, there will be plenty of time for everyone to get healthy after this draining battle.
San Antonio has a crucial one-game lead, but Miami has followed up every other postseason loss this year with a win. You can expect James and the Heat to bounce back in a big way.
Hopefully the oppressive heat won't do the same.