MIAMI: If the remainder of the NBA Finals comes anywhere close to the passion and excitement displayed by the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs in Game One, the basketball world is in for a real treat.
“It was anybody’s ball game and we just happened to be fortunate to get it,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said on Friday. “A lot of good athletes busting their butts for 48 minutes.”
The Spurs captured the opening game of the best-of-seven championship series by beating the Heat 92-88 on Thursday behind a smothering defensive effort and some late-game heroics by Spurs’ dynamo Tony Parker.
Miami fell behind by seven points with less than two minutes to play but cut the Spurs’ lead to 90-88 with 31 seconds left in regulation time, setting the stage for Parker’s heroics.
It appeared the Spurs were going to be called for a shot clock violation in the final seconds. Parker fell to the floor then ducked under last year’s finals Most Valuable Player, LeBron James, and somehow managed to launch a 16-foot bank shot with less than a second on the shot clock.
The basket gave the Spurs a four-point lead and their final margin of victory.
The teams meet again Sunday in game two at American Airlines Arena.
Popovich said the next few days will be spent trying to formulate a plan to counter some of the things Miami might do differently or better in game two.
But he said with two days to rest between games, there is only so much they can work on to get ready.
“Often times you give the team that wins too much credit,” Popovich said. “Each game is an entity unto itself.
“It unfolds as it goes and it is about what you do to execute and pick up on the other team’s strengths and weaknesses.”
The Spurs’ win spoiled a superb performance by James, who finished with 18 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists. It was the 10th career post-season “triple double” for James.
But it wasn’t enough to compensate for key turnovers down the stretch and the rock-solid defense of the Spurs, who only committed four turnovers, tying a NBA Finals record.
“We are playing the best basketball of the season so far,” San Antonio’s Tim Duncan said at Friday’s practice. “
San Antonio and its aging core of battle-tested veterans is in its first finals since 2007 while the Heat are seeking their second title in a row so tphey can lay claim to a dynasty.