Game 1 of the NBA Finals was on its way to having a spectacular ending. The Miami Heat led by two on the road with 7:30 to play when Lebron James had to be carried off the court with cramps and missed most of the rest of the game. The air conditioning malfunctioned at AT&T Center in San Antonio, forcing players and fans to endure an indoor heat wave. After James led, the Spurs turned a two-point deficit into a 15-point rout and secured Game 1 of the NBA Finals by a 110-95 score. Game 2 is on Sunday night and the Spurs are a 4.5-point favorite.
James led the Heat with 25 before exiting the game in the fourth quarter. Dwyane Wade led four other Heat players in double figures with 19, however the big story was that the Heat were just 1-for-4 and committed a couple of turnovers when James left the game. Tim Duncan led the Spurs with 25 points and 10 rebounds with some assistance from four other Spurs in double figures.
The two keys to the game were the Spurs’ ability to take advantage of the Heat’s small lineup and their three-point shooting. The game clearly changed when James went out, which also seemed to give a boost to the Spurs, who sensed blood in the water. After James left, the Spurs were 6-of-6 from three-point range and shot 82 percent. But, over the course of the game, the Spurs were wearing down the Heat. They outrebounded Miami 39-29 and held a 48-36 advantage on points in the paint. As has been their calling card during the postseason, the Spurs shot extremely well, going 58.8 percent from the floor overall and 52 percent from beyond the arc.
Continuing a trend set in last year’s NBA Finals, the Spurs were +18 when Wade was on the floor. In last year’s seven-game series, the Spurs outscored the Heat by 54 points when Wade was on the floor and got outscored by 49 points in just 86 minutes without Wade in game. The Spurs outscored the Heat 31-9 in the final 9:30 of the game, much of that played without James, adding more pressure to Wade.
Depth played a factor as Norris Cole struggled to find his shot for the Heat and Ray Allen had 16 of the bench’s 23 points. Manu Ginobli led the Spurs bench with 16 of the group’s 34 points, but Boris Diaw added 10 rebounds and the Spurs were +30 with him in the game. That will be a development to watch throughout the series.
San Antonio turned the ball over 23 times, but Miami could only muster 28 points off of those mistakes. The Spurs had one other 20-turnover game earlier this postseason against Dallas and they lost that game by more than 20. The Heat’s pressure defense may play a role under better conditions in the arena since it did its job of forcing turnovers. The offense just needs to turn turnovers into points.
With the air conditioning fixed for Game 2, the Heat will need to bounce back and defend the three-point line better, while the Spurs will try to contain Lebron James and force somebody else to beat them. After James left, the remaining members of the “Big Three”, Wade and Chris Bosh, needed to step up and could not.
With the victory, the Spurs moved to 12-3 on their home court in the NBA Finals and the Heat fell to 4-8 on the road. The Heat have won both NBA Finals series in which they lost Game 1 on the road. The Spurs are now 10-1 straight up at home and have covered eight consecutive spreads at AT&T Center. They are 8-3 ATS overall. The Heat dropped to .500 both straight up and ATS on the road at 4-4. Game 2 will mark just the second time the Heat have opened an underdog since April 14.
The Spurs have now covered five straight as a favorite. The Spurs are 0-4 in their last four as a favorite of 0.5-4.5 points, which is where Game 1 opened, but are now 8-0 in their last eight as a favorite of 5.0-10.5 points, which is where Game 1 closed. The Spurs are 16-7 ATS in their last 23 NBA Finals games and 16-5 ATS in their last 21 home games, including a streak of eight in a row.
The Heat have bounced back of late, posting a 4-0 ATS record following a straight up loss. They are also 5-1 ATS in their last six after allowing 100 or more points in their previous game. Miami is 23-9 ATS in their last 32 after a straight up loss by 10 or more points. Depending on where this line goes, the Heat are 0-4-1 ATS in their last five as an underdog of 0.5-4.5 points and 1-5 in their last six as a 5.0-10.5-point underdog. Overall, the Heat are just 7-18-2 in their last 27 playoff games when getting points.
For totals bettors, Game 1 went over the 198.5-point total, so the over is 5-1 in the last six NBA Finals games between these two. Game 2 has a total of 198.5 or 199 depending on your book. The over is 9-3 in San Antonio’s next game after a win and 8-3 after scoring 100 or more points in their previous game. If the spread stays where it is or goes down, the over is 17-7 in San Antonio’s last 24 as a 0.5-4.5-point favorite. The over is now 8-2 in Miami’s last 10 and 5-1-1 in their last seven as a playoff underdog.
Free NBA Pick: San Antonio Spurs
Lebron James will get his points, assists, and rebounds, but will anybody else step up for the Miami Heat? Until that happens, the Spurs will likely let Lebron do his thing but focus more on preventing the other players from contributing. The depth advantage that the Spurs have will be a contributing factor throughout the series and the Heat will wear down from playing a pressure defense and getting outmuscled in the paint with the small lineup in the game.
San Antonio is shooting the ball so well at home that it’s tough not only to beat them, but to stay in the game. The Heat did a good job of it in Game 1 up until Lebron left, but the depth advantage likely gives Gregg Popovich more options to make adjustments. Tim Duncan did something in Game 1 that only three players have ever done. He shot 90 percent from the field with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. The other two are guys you might have heard of, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Duncan has been terrific in the playoffs and the Heat don’t have an answer for him.
Given the Spurs’ home-court dominance and a lack of a supporting cast for James, look for the Spurs to put together a complete effort on Sunday.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.