LeBron James had a triple-double in the first game of the NBA Finals and the Heat lost. Yes, it’s going to be a fascinating series.
After leading for most of the game, the Heat’s shimmering offense collapsed in crunch time and Miami lost to the Spurs 92-88 to go down 1-0 in the best-of-7 championship on Thursday at AmericanAirlines. James finished with 18 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists but it wasn’t enough to overcome key turnovers, a pitch-perfect defensive effort down the stretch by the Spurs and ridiculous trick shot by San Antonio dynamo Tony Parker with 5.2 seconds to play.
“We had some mental mistakes,” James said. “We played some really good basketball but in the fourth quarter we made some mistakes and this is one of the only teams you can’t have mistakes against.”
The Heat trailed by seven points with under two minutes to go, but cut the Spurs’ lead to 90-88 with 31 seconds to play after a pair of free throws by James. It only set the stage for Parker’s heroics. It appeared the Heat was going to force a shot-clock violation in the final seconds with Parker turning a pirouette out of trap and then slipping to the ground. But Parker somehow kept his dribble, ducked around James and then drained a bank shot with nanoseconds left on the shot clock.
“Tony did everything wrong and everything right on the same possession,” James said.
It gave the Spurs a 92-88 and the game.
“That seemed like a 26-second possession,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Said Parker: “It was a crazy play. I thought I lost the ball three or four times. But it felt good when it left my hand and it went in.”
Game 2 of The Finals is at 8 p.m. on Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
If the rest of the series is anything close to the levelof Game 1, the basketball world is in for a treat. It was a beautiful display by both teams, especially compared to the slow grind that was the Eastern Conference finals. Passes zipped around the court in perfect rhythm. Hacking fouls were rare. Both teams recorded just two turnovers in the first half. Trash talk was almost nonexistent. Fitting of The Finals, most of the game was played at a world-class level.
An assist to Chris Bosh gave James a triple-double with 7:28 left in the game, but from there the Heat tanked and the Spurs’ defense glowed as golden as Dwyane Wade’s shoes.
San Antonio took a three-point lead following a turnover by James with 6:06 to play. Ray Allen then missed a free-throw attempt and a layup by Tim Duncan gave the Spurs an 83-79 lead. Mario Chalmers then committed a key turnover and, after a stop by the Heat on the defensive end, the Spurs forced a 24-second violation. Moments later, Parker made a baseline jumper to put San Antonio ahead 85-79.
“You can’t make no mistakes against them,” Wade said. “I thought we were a little fatigued in the fourth quarter, honestly. We looked like a team that just came off a long seven-game series.”
The Heat went nearly 3 ½ minutes without a field goal and seemed doomed after Danny Green nailed a three-pointer with 2:11 to play to put San Antonio ahead by seven points. Green then made a fabulous error, fouling Allen on a three-point attempt, but the Heat could get no closer than two points.
“We just didn’t get organized into what we wanted to do and we paid the price for that big time,” Spoelstra said. “There’s a small margin of error on every possession and when you don’t make plays you pay the price … most of the fourth quarter probably hurt us more than anything.”
The Heat was outscored 23-16 in the final period with the Spurs’ starters outscoring the Heat’s first unit 23-8. Parker finished with 21 points and six assists. Duncan had 20 points and 14 rebounds. Wade scored 17 points, but just five of those points came in the second half.
The Spurs committed just four turnovers overall after throwing it away on its first possession of the game. The ball control helped San Antonio overcome poor shooting (41.7 percent) and losing the rebounding battle 46-37.
“I think the most important thing about the game is we didn’t turn the ball over,” Ginobili said, who finished with 13 points.
When Norris Cole stroked a three-pointer with 8:15 left in the second quarter, it made him the Heat’s fifth different player to make a three-pointer in the first half. Miami finished 6 of 15 from three-point range in the first two quarters, missing its final four shots from outside. Allen began the game 2 of 2 from three-point range, putting the Heat ahead 21-19 with 2:50 left in the first quarter. From there, the Heat held the lead until the 7:47 remained in the game.
Miami led 52-49 at halftime and 72-69 entering the fourth quarter, but the Heat scored just seven points in the first eight minutes of the final period.
“We were happy at halftime,” Parker said. “We were only down three and we weren’t playing well. We were happy because we knew we would be rusty.”
For good reason, much of the pre-series talk focused on the strength of Wade’s right knee. His knee might still be bothering him, but Wade played well in the first half. Bosh forced a Spurs’ turnover on the first possession of the game and Wade converted with a fierce dunk to give the Heat a 2-0 lead.
Wade attacked the rim throughout the game. His back-to-back driving layups in the second quarter, followed by a strong move to the basket by Cole, gave the Heat a 46-38 lead. Wade entered The Finals averaging 14.1 points per game in the playoffs.