As the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat head toward Sunday night's crucial Game 2 of the 2014 NBA Finals, there's much more than the faulty AT&T Center air conditioning to talk about—although that alone has generated enough "hot" topics.
With the Spurs holding onto their home court in a 110-95 Game 1 victory, Miami is just one loss away from doing something it never has in the Big Three era. The Heat have trailed 1-0 in plenty of series but never 0-2 since LeBron James headed south.
And that's only the beginning of what will unfold on Sunday night in San Antonio. Here's a look at updated odds for Game 2:
|San Antonio Spurs||-4|
Note: Odds courtesy of Oddsshark.com (updated as of June 8, 1 p.m. EDT)
Game 2 Preview
If you've been standing around a workplace water cooler at any point over the last few days, LeBron James' name has probably come up.
One of the most unbelievable chapters of the public scrutiny saga that follows James unfolded in Game 1, when 90-degree conditions inside AT&T Center helped force him out of the game late with a leg cramp.
Simultaneously, social media exploded, and everyone from Gatorade to Jonathan Martin was chiming in with his own forms of criticism for the King—despite somewhat more important folks like Isaiah Thomas (via Yahoo Sports) and Magic Johnson offering their defense for James:
In LeBron's case, you don't go to 4 straight Finals, win NBA MVP's and Finals MVP's without being mentally and physically tough.— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) June 8, 2014
Alas, the Spurs were taking over Game 1 with James struggling to stay on the floor. After hitting 14 of 16 shot attempts in the final frame, San Antonio had run away with the first game of the Finals.
Before James' exit took over the headlines, Game 1 was an instant classic. The Spurs started out hot, but the Heat's suffocating defense and timely shooting kept them up throughout the second half before San Antonio made a heroic surge back into the lead.
But unfortunately, the heat—not the Heat, or even the Spurs—prevailed as the main talking point. The air conditioning was quickly fixed, per NBA on ESPN, but there are still questions as to James' health and his ability to play through what is sure to be another barnburner—although hopefully more air conditioned.
However, as the Associated Press' Tim Reynolds observed from the 2012 NBA Finals, James has a history of coming back strong from such an injury:
LeBron James left Game 4 of the NBA Finals with cramps. He had a triple double in Game 5.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) June 7, 2014
The Spurs might not want that LeBron James to return, but point guard Tony Parker made it clear they don't want to face an undermanned Heat squad again in the Finals, per ESPN's Royce Young:
Tony Parker: "I want the AC to come back. I want to play the real Miami Heat, the two-time champs."— Royce Young (@royceyoung) June 6, 2014
There's no doubting the Spurs have their own problems to worry about entering Game 2. San Antonio was a shell of itself during stretches of Game 1 with 22 team turnovers, and a similar performance would almost certainly result in the series being tied at one game apiece heading back to Miami.
However, when the Spurs figured out how to hold onto the ball, they almost always cashed in. San Antonio shot 58.8 percent from the field, shot 52 percent from long range and got to the foul line (22 times) twice as often as the Heat (11).
But championship-caliber teams like the Heat and the Spurs don't come back quietly after suffering a narrow, demoralizing defeat. That much is shown from ESPN Stats and Information:
The Heat are 5-0 in playoff series after losing Game 1 in the James-Wade-Bosh era (since 2010-11 season).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 8, 2014
With a couple of days to digest Game 1, the Heat can look back at Thursday and realize how great of a position they put themselves in. After a Chris Bosh four-point play early in the fourth, Miami was up seven and suffocating the Spurs offense before it caught fire.
They may not be able to force 22 turnovers again, but that's alright—after all, they can't count on wearing down so quickly down the stretch and allowing for the Spurs to shoot lights out.
Who wins Game 2?
An aggressive Miami offense will be led by an angry LeBron James in Game 2. No matter what he says in a one-on-one with ESPN's Mike Wilbon about not playing any differently, James will be cognizant of initiating contact, getting into the teeth of the defense and getting his team to the foul line as that's the only way Miami can come back in this series.
The Heat have been here before—every one of the last four years, to be exact—and know what type of monster they're facing if they go down 0-2 to a four-time NBA champion that is out for revenge from last year. That will only bring out the best in the two-time defending champs.
Game 2 Prediction: Heat 96, Spurs 92.