With the AT&T Center, feeling more like sauna due to a busted Air Conditioning system, Miami couldn’t handle the heat. Instead, it was the San Antonio Spurs who ran away 110-95 winners and to a 1-0 lead in the 2014 NBA Finals after what will forever be known as the “AC Game.” However, there were some positives to take from the loss.
LeBron James suffered from severe cramps that ruled him out of the game and Miami had no answer as San Antonio went on a scorching run in the fourth quarter. They played near perfect basketball, scoring 36 points on 14/16 shooting from the field (6/6 on 3pointers), which set a new field goal shooting benchmark in any quarter of the NBA Finals, and also set the stage for the 16-3 run to secure the series lead.
We could debate whether James’ presence would have actually made much of a difference to the outcome until the cows come home, but at the very least we can all agree he would have affected the game one way or another. Sure, San Antonio got hot down the stretch, but Miami was well in with a chance to win this game thanks to his 23points(8-14 FG shooting) through three quarters. He went down, then all of sudden Danny Green(who had missed all of his previous five attempts from the field) had the hot hand in the closing period and he hit all four of his shot attempts to lead the home team to victory.
Perhaps there isn’t a direct correlation between the two, although even Manu Ginobili was willing to accept that James’ absence helped things somewhat.
“If you make 6-for-6[3pointers] down the stretch, you’re in a good situation,” he said. “And if the opposition’s best player goes down, that helps you too. We don’t have to be very satisfied with this win. Of course it’s nice to be up, instead of down 1-0, but we didn’t play that well.”
Furthermore, while the fourth quarter was the peak of San Antonio’s shooting on the night, it’s fair to say they had it going all night. As such, they were able to shoot nearly 52 percent from 3point range and nearly 60(58.9) percent overall. Those aren’t your normal game to game numbers and that’s good news for the Heat.
Granted, the Spurs will continue to shoot well but odds are it won’t be quite at the same clip and Miami’s stifling defense will eventually take its toll. Although, looking at the turnover numbers, it already has.
Typically, San Antonio know how to take care of the ball having averaged 14.4 turnovers during the regular season and 15.1 in the post season. In Game 1 however, they gave it up 23 times – just one shy of their Playoff high. As Gregg Popovich pointed out, that usually ends up in a loss. Yet, thanks to some outstanding shooting, they were able to counter that.
“For us, that’s usually our Achilles heel,” Pop said during the post-game press conference. “When we have a game like that, turnover wise, invariably it ends up in a loss for us. I haven’t looked at any stats (I’m afraid to), but I guess we made 3s and rebounded pretty well. We were very fortunate to have won this game tonight.”
If the Heat can maintain anything close to that turnover rate, then they won’t be trailing for long in the series. And if key players such as Mario Chalmers are able to play significant minutes without getting into foul trouble, it would go a long way to helping get the W.
Rio saw only 17minutes worth of court time and contributed just 3points in Game 1, forcing Coach Spoelstra to feature Norris Cole more so than usual.
That was particularly damaging on a night where the heat affected rotations but Miami simply weren’t able to maintain any sort of continuity in their substitutions and it told, as San Antonio simply outran and outlasted them down the stretch.
The Heat will also have to make adjustments to their pick and roll defensive, after Tim Duncan finished with 21points and missed only one of his 10 Field Goal attempts. Then again, that’s somewhat understandable. After all, Duncan is an ultra-effective scorer near the basket.
“It’s where my shots come,” Duncan said. “We have a lot of shooters and I’m not going to stretch the court in that respect. Every once in a while I get a jumpshot from 15 to 18 feet, but mostly my effective range is in there right now. I’m going to pick‑and‑roll and try to get to open spots and try to take advantage of the rotation if they’re trapping.”
However, the ease in which he did so was worrying because every single shot came from within the paint. Every time Miami trapped on pick and rolls, the bigman guarding Duncan would get sucked out to the perimeter and the defensive rotation was either a tad slow or meant that a smaller player ended up trying to cover a Hall-of-Fame bigman. As you can probably guess, that ended with easy looks right next to the basket. Time and time again.
Even Tiago Splitter got in on the action. At one stretch, he was actually the go to guy and he either finished with an easy lay-up or a trip to the foul line, thus his 14point outing.
On the upside, the AC has been fixed for Game 2 and LeBron will be “100 percent,” therefore it could bear different results. Plus, like Ginobili said, the Miami Heat “always come back.”
Tags: 2014 Nba Finals