NBA Finals: Heat sputter late, fall in Game 1 to Spurs
Miami • A triple-double wasn't enough for LeBron James.
And for the second straight year, the Miami Heat lost Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
James finished with a sensational final stat line, finishing with 18 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists. But while he did plenty of everything, the Heat simply needed more scoring. Miami managed only 36 points in the second half, wasting what was as much as a nine-point lead, and the Heat lost the home-court edge in the finals by falling to the San Antonio Spurs 92-88 on Thursday night.
The Heat shot 44 percent, and were 8 for 25 from 3-point range. They were far from at their best offensively, and forced only four turnovers all night a horrible sign for a team that feasts upon getting easy baskets off their opponents' mistakes.
And with Game 2 not until Sunday, it means there will be two days of the inevitable question: Did James defer too much in favor of trying to make what most would consider the correct basketball play?
With the game on the line, he took only seven shots in the second half, but had 10 rebounds and five assists in the final 24 minutes. He could have had plenty more assists, if the Heat actually made any shots.
Up by three entering the fourth quarter, Miami shot 5 for 18 in the final 12 minutes. Chris Bosh, who finished with 13 points, was 1 for 5 in the fourth quarter. Dwyane Wade had 13 points in the first half, just four in the second half.
The Spurs, who were off for nine days before the finals, looked far more rested down the stretch. The Heat looked very much like a team that had to grind out a seven-game series against Indiana to win the East title.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said "everything is on the table" when talking earlier this week about his plan for the winner-take-all Game 7 against Indiana, and stuck with that philosophy in Game 1 of the finals.
Instead of using the customary eight or nine players in the first half, Spoelstra used 11, partially because of some mild foul trouble and partially because Mike Miller who couldn't crack the rotation for much of this season but was a huge part of the title-clinching win over Oklahoma City last year was the first sub off the Miami bench.
That wasn't the only out-of-the-norm move by Spoelstra.
With his team only up by three points entering the fourth quarter, he kept James and Wade on the bench for the first 2:59 of that final period and when James went back into the game, the margin was still three. When Wade re-entered with 7:47 left, Tony Parker was making a pair of free throws that gave the Spurs a 77-76 edge, their first lead since 19-18.
The Heat simply never got on the roll that they needed. And just like that, control of the finals was lost.