San Antonio won the game, but everyone is talking about the heat.
No, not the Miami Heat. The big topic following the opening game of the NBA Finals was the temperature inside the AT&T Center, where thermometers showed the sweltering conditions reached upwards of 90 degrees.
Fans spent as much time, well, fanning themselves as they did cheering, and the Spurs’ beloved mascot, the Coyote, appeared to be the only person in the building to not break a sweat.
An electrical failure caused the air conditioning to go out before tipoff, and the same breakdown led to LeBron James’ body shutting down late in the fourth quarter of San Antonio’s 110-95 victory Thursday.
Officials reported the malfunction was fixed Friday, stating conditions inside the building should be comfy for Sunday’s Game 2, but the damage is already done.
Following an as-expected, high-intensity, back-and-forth first three quarters in the first Finals rematch since the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz pulled off the feat in 1998, Mother Nature finally claimed a victim.
With 3 minutes, 39 seconds remaining in the game, James’ body was unable to take any more, cramping to the point he was literally carried to the bench by a teammate and a member of Miami’s coaching staff.
The incident ended his night — with a game-high 25 points — allowing the Spurs to take over what was a two-point game and sparking a Twitter phenomenon as #Lebroning. Look it up, it’s a real thing.
While most who were asked about the lack of air conditioning admitted it was uncomfortable, nobody, outside of the fans, resorted to using it as an excuse.
After all, despite the conditions, it was a highly competitive Finals opener and an overall impressive showing, especially from the Spurs.
Paced by a pair of double-double performances from Tim Duncan (21 points, 9 for 10 field goals, 10 rebounds) and Manu Ginobili (16 points, 11 assists), San Antonio made 58.8 percent of its shots and was 13 of 25 from behind the 3-point line. Tony Parker added eight assists to bring the Spurs’ total to 30 for the game, and they outscored the Heat 48-36 in the paint.
Turnovers, however, turned out to be an issue. San Antonio committed 22 turnovers — the most by a team in a Finals win since the Los Angeles Lakers had 23 in Game 1 against the Philadelphia Sixers in 1982.
At times, the Spurs’ sloppy play appeared to spell disaster, but their clutch play late in the game allowed them to capitalize on Miami’s loss.
Following James’ departure, the Spurs embarked on a 16-3 run to end the game sparked by Danny Green’s 3-pointer, making the score 97-92.
It was all the cushion San Antonio needed to secure the win and start a rash of horrible Heat-can’t-take-the-heat jokes on various social media outlets.
Although the temperatures caused some minor chaos by dehydrating players and making James’ cramps fuel for fans’ trash-talking fires, everybody emerged relatively unscathed.
This series is far from over. Don’t forget the Spurs won Game 1 of last year’s Finals on Parker’s miracle shot in Miami, and still ended up losing the series in seven games.
Nevertheless, after everything, San Antonio is the team three wins away from a championship.
Even if everyone is only talking about the heat.
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org