SAN ANTONIO (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Spurs beat the Heat. Miami couldn’t beat the heat.
And there was the story of Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
With LeBron James unable to play in the final 3:59 because of cramps throughout the left side of his body, and on a night where an air conditioning failure inside San Antonio’s arena had temperatures hovering near 90 degrees, the Heat simply withered in the final minutes. As their four-time MVP could only watch, Miami watched as San Antonio pulled away in the final minutes for a 110-95 win on Thursday night in the opener of the title series.
“It’s frustration and there’s anger,” James said as he lay on a training table long after the game. “But at the same time, it’s something you try to prevent, you try to control. I got all the fluids I needed to get. I did my normal routine I’ve done. It’s something that was inevitable for me tonight.
“It just sucks not being out there for your team, especially at this point of the season.”
As could be expected, the sweltering conditions and James’ cramps were the talk of Twitter:
James scored the last of his 25 points on a layup that got Miami within two. That was the end of his night; he stood still on the baseline afterward, unable to move his left leg because of cramping.
His night was over, and soon, so was the game. The Spurs outscored the Heat by 13 the rest of the way, and took the series-opener for the second straight finals.
The Heat were outscored 36-17 in the fourth quarter.
Dwyane Wade scored 19 points, Chris Bosh added 18 and Ray Allen scored 16 for Miami. Rashard Lewis added 10 for the Heat.
“I think it felt like a punch in the gut when you see your leader limping like that back to the bench,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But at the same time we still had an opportunity.”
James has dealt with cramping issues several times in the past, including during the 2012 NBA Finals against Oklahoma City – in a game in Miami.
“We’re used to having the hotter arena,” Spoelstra said.
Spoelstra insisted that the Heat would not use the temperature as an excuse, and said James tried to return to the game shortly after the cramp knocked him out.
“I just looked at him and said, `Don’t even think about it. You can’t even move,'” Spoelstra said.
James didn’t need much convincing. He knew. Cramps, he said, were affecting nearly the whole left side of his body.
“Any little step or nudge, it would get worse,” James said. “It would lock up even worse. My muscles would just spasm at a 10 out of 10.”
Tim Duncan led the Spurs with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Tony Parker added 19 points and Manu Ginobili finished with 16 points and 11 assists for San Antonio, which improved to 10-1 at home in the playoffs.
James was affected throughout the second half, asking for breaks more than once, and some players placed ice bags on the backs of their necks in an effort to combat the temperature.
Duncan said the heat was a significant factor in the game.
“I don’t know what happened to LeBron, but I think all of us were feeling the heat,” Duncan said. “We were all dehydrated.”
If there is a bright side for James – who used cold towels, drank what he could and even changed uniforms at halftime – it’s that Game 2 isn’t until Sunday.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich acknowledged afterward that James’ departure obviously played a role in the finish, though lauded the way his team executed in the deciding minutes.
“Certainly could have been a different story. There’s no doubt about that,” Popovich said.
It’s not the first time electricity has had a significant impact on a championship event in recent years. The Super Bowl in 2013 between Baltimore and San Francisco was marred by a power outage at the Superdome in New Orleans, interrupting play for 34 minutes.
Power was the culprit in Game 1 of the finals as well, arena officials said.
“An electrical failure for the power that runs the AC system in the AT&T Center has occurred,” Spurs Sports and Entertainment said in a statement distributed in the second half. “We are continuing to work on resolving the problem. We apologize for any inconvenience.”
Many fans removed the giveaway black T-shirts handed out before the game, obviously wanting to wear as few layers inside the steamy building as possible.
“Not NBA Finals worthy,” Wade said of the conditions in the locker room afterward. “I’ll tell you that. This is crazy.”
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