Usually you can tell if a movie is any good within the first five minutes or, after just reading a few lines, if a book will be a good read that is hard to put down.
San Antonio's home-court advantage played an unexpected role on Thursday after the AT&T Center air conditioning unit suffered an "electrical failure," as per a statement provided by arena staff to ABC's broadcast team. During the first half of play, it wasn't a factor as both teams seemed to be scoring with ease. Chris Bosh scored Miami's first 5 points and the Heat capitalized early on uncharacteristic Spurs turnovers. However, Mario Chalmers found himself in early foul trouble and San Antonio's bench, one of the Western Conference champs' biggest strengths, made an immediate impact. Manu Ginobili, after a shaky performance in last year's Finals, was particularly focused, hitting his first three 3-pointers (and finishing with 16 points).
Meanwhile, Miami's bench - supposedly one of their greatest weaknesses - was also a factor. Ray Allen also hit his first three shots from long range and finished with 16 points of his own. After the Spurs started the 2nd quarter up 7, the Heat went 6-of-6 from the field to start the period and were soon up 2. The Spurs countered with a 6-0 run of their own led by Tim Duncan, who started the game 6-of-6 (and finished with 21 points on 90% shooting). The Spurs ran their pick-and-roll offense to perfection during and, despite 10 turnovers, ended the 1st half up 54-49.
In the 3rd quarter, the heat (which according to ABC sideline reporter Doris Burke reached over 90 degrees) began to wear on both teams. As LeBron James, Duncan and other players asked for more rest than usual, the game took a sloppy turn. During one particular segment, Miami defenders allowed consecutive open layups by the Spurs as Heat players stood still, glued to the floor with fatigue. Still, a Dwyane Wade 3-pointer capped an 8-0 run and a James shot from long range put Miami up 2. The Heat seemed to find their "extra gear" as the period ended, tightening their defense and forcing the Spurs into more sloppy turnovers. Following a spectacular dunk from Allen, Miami seemed poised for a victory.
Miami continued to thrive in 4th quarter, and a Bosh 4-point play put the Heat up, 86-79. But the Spurs continued to exploit the pick-and-roll with big man Tiago Splitter often benefitting with an open look at the rim. With Miami's lead dwindling and still over 6:30 left to play, James called for a time-out as he was obviously fatigued. Danny Green, who had yet to make a field goal, hit two straight 3-pointers and his dunk put the Spurs up by 4.
James went back in the game but it was short-lived. He drove to the basket and his layup cut the lead to 2. But he instantly began limping with pain, could barely walk the length of the court, and was carried by teammates to the bench where he remained for the rest of the game.
Another Green shot put the Spurs up 7 but Chalmers, now playing with 5 fouls, hit his first shot of the game to cut the lead to 4. But Miami, without its leader and drained both emotionally and physically, simply collapsed and watched as San Antonio closed the game with an 11-point run.
Most of the game was positive for the Heat, playing in a hostile environment and getting key contributions from James (25 points), Wade (19 points), Bosh (18 points) and even Rashard Lewis, who started the game and battled through some cold shooting to end up with 10 points. But a game that was within reach with over 2:30 left to play erupted into a blowout and one has to wonder how Miami can respond with two days rest before Sunday's Game 2. Head Coach Erik Spoelstra will have to look at making some adjustments, especially in guarding Duncan's and Splitter's frequent rolls to the basket.
It was an ugly loss but the Heat have shown the ability to bounce back from Game 1 losses. Expect a rejuvenated (and hydrated) James to have a big game. And if any fans should want to blame the loss on the arena malfunction remember that both teams were dealing with the same unusual conditions. The heat may have been a factor but, at least on Thursday, the Spurs showed they could handle it better than Miami.