The Heat had lost their lead. They had lost their mojo and momentum. They had committed turnovers and could not quite get going on the right foot in transition. Miami played well, but found themselves in dire straights.
There was LeBron James guarding Tony Parker one on one with time ticking away. The Heat, struggling to contain Parker throughout the night, changed the defensive strategy a bit. They switched every screen hoping to keep Parker out of the paint and maintain a two-point deficit. Parker seemed caught off guard. He switched directions a few times, got a new screen. He dribbled to the corner, lost his footing.
He kept his dribble alive. The shot clock ticked down and Parker fired one of those sweet-floaters toward the basket. It hit the backboard, bounced off the rim and and bounced in. Video review confirmed Parker got it off with 0.1 seconds left on the shot clock, if that. It did not matter, the shot was good.
San Antonio, trailing most of the game, completed the comeback and defeated Miami 92-88 for a Game One victory at American Airlines Arena in Miami on Thursday night.
And what an opening to the Finals it was.
Parker scored 21 points and dished out six assists, getting help from Tim Duncan (20 points, 14 rebounds). LeBron James recorded a triple double with 18 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists. Both teams raced out of the gates shooting-wise and the execution did not seem to stop. Both teams had their moments of domination, but not too much domination.
San Antonio took as much as a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter and Miami had a nine-point lead in the second quarter. No team was able to get very much distance.
This game, came down to who could make shots. Exactly what a basketball game should come down to.
Miami was the one this time that could not make shots down the stretch. The Heat shot 5 for 18 in the fourth quarter and missed all five of their 3-pointers. The Spurs took advantage with a 15-5 run to close the gap and take the lead to control the game.
Having a point guard like Parker helped control the pace and keep everyone even-keeled.
It also helped to commit a quarter of the team's total turnovers on the first play of the game. San Antonio moved the ball crisply and efficiently and did so without turning it over, setting an NBA Finals record with just four turnovers the entire game. It helped San Antonio as the team tried to find its rhythm in the doldrums of the game in the middle of the second quarter.
The Spurs dug deep and executed at the end, knowing they could rely on their defense to get the job done in the end.
So maybe LeBron James was not attacking the basket with his usual fervor — he passed up an opportunity late in the fourth quarter to get Chris Bosh a wide open 3-pointer which Bosh missed. James though played rather well, getting his teammates involved.
Both teams will have to find better ways to put a wrench in each other's offense.
For fans, though, this was all they could ask for. This was an entertaining game with big players making big plays. This is just Game One.