SAN ANTONIO - The heat was really on throughout the inner bowels of the AT&T Center Thursday night, creating a soupy environment that probably had Miami feeling as if this were South Florida rather than someplace deep in the heart of Texas.
With the air conditioning system malfunctioning and the temperature in the arena above 90 degrees late in the game, according to ESPN, the tropical setting had LeBron James cramping up just when the Heat needed him most, forcing him to take a seat for the better part of the game's final four minutes.
It also matched the red-hot hand of Danny Green and the Spurs' offense, which certainly had a triple-digit-temperature feel to it in the fourth quarter.
Held to two points in the first three quarters, Green scored 11 points and ignited an offense that canned 14 of 16 shots in a 36-point quarter as San Antonio beat the Heat in more ways than one, earning a 110-95 victory in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
James, who scored 25 points in 32:53, cramped up late in the fourth quarter, unable to put any pressure on his left leg. Without its superstar on the floor in crunch time, Miami wilted in the heat and watched the Spurs seize control with a 16-3 run, including the final 11 points. The Heat had only 17 points in the quarter and didn't score after Mario Chalmers' three-pointer with 2:45 left cut the Spurs' lead to 99-95.
Said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, "LJ, look, at one point he was getting up with 31/2 minutes to go and I looked at him and said, 'Don't even think about it. You can't even move at this point.' "
James told a pool reporter, "I was going to try to give it a go and Spo said no. It [stinks] at this point in time in the season. You know, after I made that layup, we was down two and, you know, as well as they played, we still had a chance. You know, after I came out of the game, they kinda took off. And it was frustrating sitting out and not be able to help our team.''
He added, "It was the whole left leg, damn near the whole left side. I was losing a lot [of fluids] throughout the game. It was extremely hot in the building, you know, both teams, fans, everybody could feel it. I was the one that had to take the shot.''
The Spurs shot 6-for-6 from three-point range and had 12 assists in the fourth quarter. North Babylon product Green was 4-for-4 in the quarter, including three three-pointers.
Meanwhile, the fans spent most of the night fanning themselves to stay cool after an electrical problem caused the arena's air conditioning system to malfunction early in the first quarter.
Said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, "I think it was tough on both teams. Players were pretty dead. So we tried to get guys in and out a little bit more than we usually do. Kind of screws up the rhythm a little bit, but it was mighty hot out there.''
Said Spoelstra, "It was an unusual environment. We're used to having the hotter arena at this time of year. But both teams had to deal with it. It's unfortunate that it was that way. It was how we responded in those minutes after that point [after James sat down]. I think it felt like a punch in the gut when you see your leader limping like that back to the bench. But at the same time, we still had an opportunity to make plays down the stretch and they obviously made the biggest plays in the last five minutes."
Tim Duncan had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Spurs. Tony Parker added 19 points and eight assists and Manu Ginobili had 16 points and 11 assists. Dwyane Wade had 19 points, Chris Bosh 18 and Ray Allen 16 for the Heat.
The Spurs had 30 assists to the Heat's 16, outrebounded Miami 39-29 and outshot the Heat 58.8 percent to 47.4 percent.
Parker sat out the second half of the Spurs' Game 6 clincher in the Western Conference finals because of an ankle injury, but he was OK. "Just very proud of the team. We kept pushing,'' he said. "We know it's not easy. When Chris Bosh hit that three , it was a heartbreaker, but we came out and we said let's keep pushing the pace. We felt like they were getting tired. LeBron was asking to be subbed. We were like, let's keep pushing, get some easy baskets.''