MIAMI, United States — If the remainder of the NBA Finals comes anywhere close to the passion and excitement displayed by the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs in Game 1, the basketball world is in for a real treat.
“It was anybody’s ball game and we just happened to be fortunate to get it,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Friday. “A lot of good athletes busting their butts for 48 minutes.”
The Spurs captured the opening game of the best-of-seven championship series by beating the Heat 92-88 on Thursday behind a smothering defensive effort and some late-game heroics by Spurs dynamo Tony Parker.
Miami fell behind by 7 points with less than two minutes to play but cut the Spurs’ lead to 90-88 with 31 seconds left in regulation time, setting the stage for Parker’s heroics.
It appeared the Spurs were going to be called for a shot clock violation in the final seconds. Parker fell to the floor then ducked under last year’s finals Most Valuable Player, LeBron James, and somehow managed to launch a 16-foot bank shot with less than a second on the shot clock.
The basket gave the Spurs a 4-point lead and their final margin of victory.
The teams meet again Sunday in Game 2 at American Airlines Arena.
Popovich said the next few days will be spent trying to formulate a plan to counter some of the things Miami might do differently or better in game two.
But he said with two days to rest between games, there is only so much they can work on to get ready.
“Often times you give the team that wins too much credit,” Popovich said. “Each game is an entity unto itself.
“It unfolds as it goes and it is about what you do to execute and pick up on the other team’s strengths and weaknesses.”
The Spurs’ win spoiled a superb performance by James, who finished with 18 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists. It was the 10th career post-season “triple double” for James.
But it wasn’t enough to compensate for key turnovers down the stretch and the rock-solid defense of the Spurs, who only committed four turnovers, tying a NBA Finals record.
“We are playing the best basketball of the season so far,” San Antonio’s Tim Duncan said at Friday’s practice. “We are being a lot more focussed. The guys on defense are locked in.”
San Antonio and its aging core of battle-tested veterans is in its first finals since 2007 while the Heat are seeking their second title in a row so they can lay claim to a dynasty.
Battle of Big Threes
It is also the battle of the Big Threes with the Spurs’ Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili going up against the Heat’s firecracker attack paced by James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Don’t look to the regular season for answers on who might win the series. The Spurs were slapped with a fine early this season after the teams met in Miami and coach Popovich left his star players at home.
The Heat returned the favor when they met in San Antonio in March by resting James and Wade.
Questions surrounded Wade’s balky right knee heading into the series but it didn’t appear to bother him too much on Thursday.
He looked solid in the first three quarters and finished with 17 points in 36 minutes of playing time in the loss.
“The last two games on the court I have felt better,” Wade said.
This is Miami’s third finals appearance in a row, but as Wade likes to point out it doesn’t get any easier.
“The playoffs ain’t fun, man,” Wade said following Friday’s practice. “I’m sorry to bust anyone on the outside’s bubble. As a player in the playoffs, you have no joy until it’s over and you won.” – Rappler.com
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