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Spurs top Heat in Game 1 of NBA Finals
The Miami Heat's LeBron James kneels on the sideline after leaving the game with an injury as San Antonio Spurs fans revel in a fourth-quarter lead in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/MCT)
Forward LeBron James missed a crucial three-minute stretch that allowed the San Antonio Spurs to take advantage and capture Game 1 of the NBA Finals with a 110-95 victory Thursday at AT & T Center. The Spurs lead the best-of-seven series 1-0 thanks to James being sidelined with cramps in his left leg.
James left with the Heat clinging to an 86-84 lead. The cramps occurred on a night when an electrical malfunction damaged the air-conditioning in the arena and temperatures reached high as 88 degrees.
In James' absence, the Heat were outscored 10-4, highlighted by guard Danny Green making back-to-back 3-pointers. James returned briefly, scoring a layup to pull Miami to within 94-92 with 4 minutes, 4 seconds remaining.
It was short-lived, with James having to leave again after the cramps returned. After scoring, James stayed underneath the basket. He stood in obvious pain before being helped off the court by teammates. James, who finished with a team-high 25 points, did not return.
On the next possession, Green hit another 3-pointer to put the Spurs ahead by five. San Antonio sealed the victory with a 3-pointer from the corner by guard Tony Parker to make it a 10-point game with 1:14 left.
It was a series that began with plenty of storylines. It was James facing Tim Duncan for the third time in the Finals. It was the first rematch since the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls faced the Karl Malone and John Stockton Utah Jazz in consecutive years in the late 1990s.
It was the Heat trying to become the fourth franchise to win three straight championships. It was Spurs coach Gregg Popovich looking to join the four others to lead teams to five titles.
All of that was overshadowed by the heat, and not the team that plays in Miami.
Both teams handled the uncomfortable conditions relatively well in the early stages, better than most fans inside the arena. By halftime, several were complaining about the temperatures. The crowd resorted to using anything that could double as a fan to provide relief from the temperatures.
On the court, the effects showed little.
The league's two best teams put on a basketball clinic despite playing in a sauna. They went back-and-forth most of the first half, with each relying on their superstars. Duncan scored 15 points of his game-high 21 points while Parker had his way with just about any defender Miami threw at him.
Parker forced Heat guard Mario Chalmers to the bench after he picking up his third foul. Chalmers' replacement, Norris Cole, didn't fare much better. Parker spent most of the half in the lane either scoring of setting up teammates for open baskets.
And then there was the Spurs' forgotten Big Three member, Manu Ginobili, getting into the act. He flashed back to his form in the 2007 NBA Finals by hitting three early 3-pointers.
The Heat kept it close behind their core. James, Wade and Bosh scored 35 of the team's 49 first-half points. Still, they trailed at the break after allowing the Spurs to shoot 50 percent from the field, including seven 3-pointers.
The Heat eventually gained control in the third quarter by outscoring the Spurs 29-20. They did behind balanced scoring from their All-Stars and with the help of a surprise contributor. Forward Rashard Lewis, making his fifth straight start in the postseason, scored eight of his 10 points in the quarter.
After the Spurs opened a nine-point lead, a Lewis 3-pointer pulled the Heat within 58-54 at the 10:44 mark. He then hit another three to give Miami its first lead of the second half and completed a personal 5-0 run with a layup that made it 67-64 with 6:55 left.