Just the other day, I commented on how we as fans are fascinated when the elements intrude into competition, becoming a potential factor in the outcome, becoming an additional, unforeseen exigency the players must contend with.
Normally it’s weather, as it was with rain during last weekend’s college baseball regionals.
Last night, in San Antonio, on a hot and humid Texas night, the AC went out in the gym. Meteorologist Doris Burke reported the Fahrenheit went north of 90° on the court.
The game was obviously affected. The ball kept slipping out of hands. Passes went to the third row. The ball was as slick as a greased pig at the Muhlenberg County Fair.
SA committed more turnovers than they did in the whole month of March. LeBron James cramped up like the kid at the swimming pool, who didn’t heed grannie’s warning to wait an hour after eating lunch.1
But, baseline, it was the same for both teams. As we are wont to say in such circumstances. Talent mattered, of course. But, it did became a survival of the fittest situation.
I assumed famously fit Ray Allen would shine. Indeed, his game stepped up when the humiture started taking its toll. He finished with 16 points on 50% shooting, with 5 steals.
That the biggest star LeBron James would be the biggest casualty has to be a surprise, right? Yeah, he’s had cramping issues before during previous warm weather/ warm arena post-seasons, but whodathunk teammates would have to carry him to the bench? Where he forlornly sat with furrowed brow during the game’s final, decisive moments.
During the action, when discussing the attrition situation, announcer Jeff Van Gundy, hopefully just for effect, opined that the Spurs would rather win with LeBron on the floor.
Which tomfoolery was debunked with swift sword by Tim Duncan in the post game interview, when he said he surely didn’t want anybody to get hurt, but he could care less if James had to sit it out. Or, something to that effect.
Which is to reaffirm yet again that, while the Spurs might not strut with swagger or bloviate with smacktalk, they are competitors to the core. Gimme the W. Next.
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Bottom line: At crunch time, San Antonio kicked it in gear. Miami wilted like lettuce in the hot sun.
The Spurs hit 14 of 16 shots in the fourth Q, 6/6 from beyond the arc, outscoring the (Over)Heat(ed) by 19, for the 15 point W.2
As The Professor has observed for years, and continues to remind, “You look good, when you make your shots.”
Meanwhile Miami played D like the schlepper matadors I saw once at the bull ring in Sevilla. Which is to say, not very well. You can see better checking in a Thursday league at St. Polycarp. The Heat limped to the finish, outscored 3-16.
Old Man Riverwalk3 led the Spurs with 21 points and 10 boards.
Manu Ginobili and Boris Diaw confirmed — as if we need further confirmation — what a complete team Greg Popovich has fashioned. The reserves were +30 and +22 respectively.
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The Spurs remain undefeated in NBA Finals Game Ones.
The Spurs have won 8 straight playoff games at home by 15 points or more.
The head of the player’s association called out the league after the game, inferring the game should have been stopped, that the players were at risk.
The gym was hot. Nobody was slipping. Play on.
San Antonio was simply stronger willed, less affected. While Heat players wrapped themselves in ice packs on the bench, it did not appear, at least from the TV shots, that the Spurs did the same. Which is not to say that protecting oneself against heat prostration is not advisable. Just that Miami’s players appeared more prone to letting the situation bother them than San Antonio’s.
Bud Grant, former Minnesota Viking coach would be proud of SA. Even on the most frigid, sub-zero days of December, he never allowed any heating devices on the Vikes’ sideline in Minneapolis.
As Mark Jackson offered during the game, such situations are when superstars will their bodies to transcend any such impediments. Michael Jordan did it in the Flu Game. Isiah Thomas tallied 25 in the 3d Q of Game 6 the ’88 Finals when he could barely walk, so severely sprained was his ankle.
LeBron sat and frowned.
— Seedy K