Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals did not end favorably for the Miami Heat. An air-conditioning malfunction at AT&T Center, LeBron James’ leg cramps and a dominant fourth quarter from the San Antonio Spurs were all contributing factors to the two-time defending champs’ 110-95 road loss.
Both the four-time MVP and head coach Erik Spoelstra addressed those factors during a Friday press conference.
The biggest storyline coming out of Thursday’s game—aside from San Antonio nabbing the win—was the debilitating cramps that kept LBJ sidelined for the majority of the fourth quarter.
This isn’t the first instance in which the 10-time All-Star has dealt with the ailment on the league’s biggest stage. He also suffered from cramps during Game 4 of the 2012 NBA Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but Miami won that game and eventually took the series en route to LeBron's first title.
Still, “King James” made a point to address his body letting him down, per the San Antonio Express-News’ Jeff McDonald and Bleacher Report’s Ethan Skolnick.
LeBron also spoke about the unorthodox conditions of the arena but maintained that he isn’t making excuses.
Spoelstra added his two cents about the arena’s shoddy conditions stemming from the air-conditioning failure. He also provided insight to how his team’s alpha dog battled the cramps during the game, while James explained the treatment he underwent afterward. Per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst:
James took plenty of unnecessary and unwarranted criticism via Twitter. Namely from the official account of Gatorade, which took repeated potshots at the Heat star. The company has since apologized for the string of tweets, per The Associated Press (via USA Today).
Still, LeBron refused to acknowledge the company and dismissed the naysayers.
Despite the pain he was dealing with, James was willing to get back on the court during the fourth quarter. He even managed to drive to the bucket and score, but the cramps flared up and prevented him from playing another second.
"I was going to try to give it a go and Spo said no," James said after the game, according to a pool reporter (h/t the Sun Sentinel's Ira Winderman).
James noted that he risked a more severe injury had he gone back into the game, a chance that Spoelstra wasn't going to take.
With two full days of rest prior to Sunday's Game 2, James will have plenty of time to hydrate and prepare for the next game in the series. The fourth-quarter collapse was a setback, but it's nothing the Heat can't come back from.
Spoelstra also pointed out that Friday will primarily be spent watching film, so James would have been able to get rest regardless. Dwyane Wade noted that a key adjustment in Game 2 could include digging deeper into the roster's second unit.
Dealing with the fallout from Game 1 is obviously a distraction for Miami. As Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk pointed out, though, the Heat have won every playoff series during the Big Three era when losing Game 1. Ironically, the two-time defending champions know a thing or two about adversity.
Thursday played host to one of the most bizarre playoff atmospheres in recent memory, but the Heat can't change the past. They can only focus in on Game 2, and as James said, "I'm not hiding."