The Miami Heat's 92-88 Game 1 NBA Finals loss to the San Antonio Spurs has been reviewed with a fine-toothed comb, but the focus seems set on postgame comments made by both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade that indicated they were tired.
James told head coach Erik Spoelstra that he needed a rest at the start of the fourth quarter. It's something that hasn't happened much throughout the playoffs, which he addressed following the game, per Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
I had been accustomed to being able to start the fourth but the third quarter was so—I was in the paint, defensive rebounding, I was closing out Kawhi Leonard on shooters. It took all in the tank from me in the third quarter. So I needed a little breather.
Wade, who also started the fourth quarter on the bench, had some more directed comments, looking back at the Eastern Conference Finals for an explanation, per Steve DelVecchio of Larry Brown Sports (via ASAP Sports):
Obviously I thought that we were a little fatigued, honestly, in the fourth quarter, looking around. We looked like a team that came off a seven‑game series. I thought we got some shots we wanted. But we were a little careless at times as well. We turned it over.
We had both star players for the Heat looking for some kind of reasoning behind the subpar fourth quarter their team played, both coming up with the same answer.
It seems as if there's got to be something meaningful in that, but that doesn't mean it's any less of an excuse.
So are LeBron and Wade doing just that (making excuses), or is there a bit of gamesmanship in their comments? That is, are they trying to make the Spurs believe that they won Game 1 because of Miami's long Eastern Conference Finals?
It's hard to deny that the Heat were indeed tired at the end of Game 1, with both LeBron and Wade playing fewer minutes than expected, especially in the fourth quarter.
Even Danny Green seemed to be aware that Wade was not himself near the end of the game.
Danny Green on Wade: "You can tell he got fatigued, wore down."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) June 7, 2013
The fact that they were tired seems obvious, but it's strange they would even try to use that as an excuse, especially in the NBA Finals.
What's most puzzling, however, is that they used the opposite explanation after losing to the Chicago Bulls in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
They had just swept the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, while the Bulls finished off a seven-game series against the Brooklyn Nets. Chicago won 93-86 despite its long series in the previous round, and the reasoning coming from Miami was rust.
Wade said following that game that the Heat were attempting to "defy the odds" to overcome their rust, via David Neal of The Miami Herald.
By that logic, shouldn't San Antonio's rust from having swept the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference finals have canceled out Miami's exhaustion?
It seems as if Miami's "exhaustion" explanation was more of an excuse than anything, especially given what players have said in the past few weeks.
A loss is rarely just that when it comes to the Heat, especially when they're asked by reporters to explain away every dropped game. They're almost forced to give a reason behind each loss.
I suppose the main debate that should be raging here is whether it's better for a team to undergo a longer or shorter series coming into the next round. Is it better to play rested or on a ride of momentum?
Looking at the result of Game 1, it seems that a short rest would be ideal, but it's not as if the Spurs played their best game either.
San Antonio shot just 41.7 percent in the opening game of the series, along with an ugly 30 percent clip from the three-point line.
That comes after shooting over 48 percent from the field and 37.6 percent from the three-point line during the regular season, and 46.5 percent from the field and 35.8 percent for three throughout the playoffs.
So Miami can use the "tired" excuse all they want. Just remember that the "rusty" excuse they used after Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals applies to San Antonio right now as well.