Before cramping took its toll, Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals was an instant classic that proved this year's edition of the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs sequel could be just as good as the first.
The Spurs' 110-95 win didn't unfold as the final score suggests. San Antonio did hold a slim halftime lead, but fell behind by seven in the fourth quarter before closing on an insane 31-9 run to clinch the victory.
Tim Duncan's 90 percent performance from the field and Manu Ginobili's timely shooting were clutch, but the Spurs' Game 1 win will forever be defined as the "A/C Game" due to sweltering conditions and LeBron James' late cramps that limited him to five minutes in the final frame and off the court as the Spurs pulled away.
Needless to say, Game 2 can't come fast enough—for everybody but the gassed players.
Let's break down the latest odds for Game 2 and the rest of the series.
|Game 2 Odds|
|Spurs -4.5||Heat +4.5|
|Spurs -110||Heat -110|
Note: Odds updated as of June 6, courtesy of Odds Shark
NBA Finals Outlook
Many things go out of style after two years of being unable to do them, but not hating on LeBron James.
Alas, James' late-game leg cramps that took him out of Game 1 suddenly gave everyone with a keyboard an expertise in sports medicine. Even Gatorade, the drink James was sipping on the bench as he tried to quell his cramp, was chipping in with jabs.
James did lead all scorers with 25 points and added six rebounds, but without him on the floor, the Spurs took over the game as told by ESPN Stats & Information:
LeBron James left Game 1 up 2 with 7:31 left in the 4th. The Spurs outscored the Heat by 17 the rest of the way pic.twitter.com/JggGfJesE3— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 6, 2014
The social media firestorm that ensued from James' bowing out of Game 1 did well to bury San Antonio's dominant finish on Thursday night. As a team, it shot 14-of-16 in the final frame and quit turning the ball over—a problem that kept the Heat in it despite a much lower shooting percentage.
It was far from vintage Spurs as far as the offense goes, but they got it going when it mattered most with one turnover in the last eight minutes and only two missed shots in the fourth—both were good looks.
The Heat, on the other hand, have to be kicking themselves at the wasted opportunity. San Antonio committing 22 turnovers is like found money, and Miami couldn't cash in on a marvelous chance to retake home-court advantage in the series opener.
But heading into Game 2, there's no doubt that everything is revolving around this guy, per NBA:
With two full off days between Thursday's Game 1 and Sunday's Game 2, there's little doubt the four-time MVP will be good to go.
The next question in that predicament is if the players will have to face the heat again, which seems to have already been answered, per ESPN SportsCenter:
The Spurs announce that the air conditioning at the AT&T Center is back up and running.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 6, 2014
That's quite the relief. Save for a fringe amount of unsportsmanlike individuals, the viewing public—even Spurs and Heat folk—wants both teams at full strength and no ridiculous circumstances inhibiting that. Whether it's still a level playing field is beside the point—it's the NBA Finals, it shouldn't be above 90 degrees.
If you put those circumstances aside, the Heat have plenty to feel good about when they look back on their first 40 or so minutes of play. They were shooting well from outside and stringing together stops, and most of the Spurs' turnovers were due to Miami's swarming defense that invaded passing lanes.
If the Spurs don't decide to hit just about everything they put up in the fourth and the Heat don't get completely exhausted on defense, the final frame—at the very least—will be hotly contested just like Game 1 looked to be and just like most of last year's games.
This time around, the best player in the world will be on the court and has a point to prove after Thursday's madness, per the Miami Herald's Joseph Goodman:
LeBron: "No worries. You guys can talk about me as much as you want. I'll be there on Sunday. I'm not hiding."— Joseph Goodman (@JoeGoodmanJr) June 6, 2014
It's hard to envision the Spurs turning the ball over 22 times again, even against the Heat defense, but it's even harder to see them hitting 14 of 16 shots as a team in a crucial fourth quarter. As long as Miami doesn't leave Danny Green and Manu Ginobili open from outside like they were on Thursday, the Heat will have a much better time keeping San Antonio at bay.
Who wins Game 2?
From that point on, it's just a matter of keeping the Spurs from dominating the glass and getting to the free-throw line.
Game 2 is crucial for the Heat. They've grown accustomed to coming back from 1-0 deficits, but 2-0 is a whole different story. Fall in that sort of hole, and one Spurs win in Miami in Games 3 or 4 would mean they would return to San Antonio with a chance to close it out in Game 5.
In many respects, it's a must-win game for the Heat, and anything other than a championship performance in that situation from the two-time defending champs would be shocking.
Game 2 Prediction: Heat 96, Spurs 92