NBA playoffs: Heat offense sputters late in loss
Miami • LeBron James had a triple-double. Dwyane Wade played like his painful knee wasn't so painful anymore. And the Miami Heat spent most of the night holding a lead.
Then they missed a bunch of shots, and started throwing the ball away.
Simple as that, the challenge of repeating as NBA champions got much tougher.
James finished with a sensational final stat line: 18 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists. But the Heat needed more, from their four-time NBA MVP along with everyone else, after managing only 36 points after halftime and falling to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of the NBA Finals 92-88 on Thursday.
One stat may have told the story better than any other. Tony Parker had four field goals in the fourth quarter alone for the Spurs; Miami's starting unit combined for three field goals in the pivotal period, in which the Heat were outscored 23-16.
"The fourth quarter was the difference," James said. "And I could see it on a few of our guys' faces. ... We played some really good basketball in the closing quarter, and we had some mental mistakes. And there's only a couple of teams that you can't have mistakes against, especially in the fourth, and San Antonio is definitely the No. 1 team."
To beat the Heat, opponents have to clamp down on the Heat, and that's exactly what San Antonio did. When Miami scores 90 points, it has gone 73-12 this season. When it doesn't score 90, it's 5-9.
"We just tried to contain them," said Tony Parker, whose 21-point night was capped by a beat-the-shot-clock jumper in the final moments to seal the win for the Spurs. "Tried to pack the paint and tried to force them to take outside shots."
It worked. Miami was 1 for 8 on shots outside the paint in the fourth quarter, 0 for 5 from 3-point range.
"We looked like a team that came off a seven-game series," Wade said. "I thought we got some shots we wanted, but we were a little careless at times as well."