It was fitting in a way that the air conditioning system in San Antonio’s AT&T Center went out last night, making it feel like a greenhouse, because that’s exactly what it became—a “Danny” Green house, that is. Green heated things up with three three-pointers in the fourth quarter to help spur the San Antonio Spurs to a 110-95 win over the Miami Heat in game one of the NBA Finals.
The Heat’s LeBron James, who led all scorers with 25 points, left for the last four minutes of the final quarter with leg cramps, and that was exactly the opening that Green and the Spurs needed. Green, the former UNC star, after being uncharacteristically quiet for the first three quarters, scored 11 points in just under 2 ½ minutes during the last frame to put the Spurs ahead to stay. All told, the Spurs, who trailed the Heat 86-79 with 9 ½ minutes to go, finished the game on a 31-9 run to “ice” the game.
San Antonio’s ageless reserve guard Manu Ginobili bookended Green’s heroics by hitting for nine points in the first quarter―16 for the night―to go with 11 assists; perennial standout Tim Duncan had his own double-double for the Spurs, with 21 points and 10 rebounds, and point guard Tony Parker, who was fighting through an ankle problem, notched 19 points and eight assists.
The heat was particularly unkind to the Heat. James appeared to be having considerable trouble with the dome’s 80-plus degree temperatures, as he was seen on the Heat bench on various occasions with an ice pack on his neck. He also gave the ball up four times against three assists. But conversely, it seemed to energize the Spurs, who hit the boards hard on the night with 34 defensive rebounds (39 in all to the Heat’s 29). The bench also helped lift the Spurs, who outscored Miami’s reserves, 34-20. This helped to offset San Antonio’s whopping 23 turnovers, the most they’ve committed during the entire playoffs thus far.
Miami’s Dwyane Wade had 19 points on the night, Chris Bosh added 18, and Ray Allen hit for 16 off the bench, but in the final stretch, just like an old pickup truck, the Heat overheated and then faded away as temperatures soared over 90 degrees in the fourth period. Tim Duncan, a native of the US Virgin Islands, had the quote of the night when he said afterward, “I don’t think I’ve played in anything like this since I left the islands.” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, echoing the sentiments of NBA president Rod Thorn, noted that the heat was tough on both teams, and worked relentlessly to rotate players in and out for the duration of the game―yet another important factor in the final outcome.
San Antonio now leads the Finals series, the fourth consecutive appearance for the Heat, one game to none, and game 2 is on Sunday night also at the AT&T Center. Presumably, the air conditioning system will be back up and functioning, so that at least one of San Antonio’s hopes of “beating the heat” will come true once again.