With 7:31 left in the fourth quarter of Game 1, LeBron James waved for a breather from coach Erik Spoelstra, but kept grabbing at his leg. The temperature of the AT&T Center was inching past 90 degrees after the AC in the building broke, and LeBron’s leg cramped up in the humidity.
The Heat led by two when James left. When he came back with five minutes left, they were down by four.
On the ensuing possession, he accelerated past Boris Diawfor a layup, but immediately cramped up and couldn’t even make it back up the floor. The Heat furiously fouled to avoid playing the rest of the defensive possession playing 4-on-5. They got James out, and he never returned.
After James left with 7:31 remaining, only to make his single-possession return, the Spurs outscored the Heat 26-9, going 10-for-12 from the field, including a perfect 6-for-6 from beyond the arc. Overall, San Antonio ended the game on a 31-9 run for a 110-95 win. Danny Green came alive after not scoring in the first three quarters, going a perfect 3-of-3 from deep and 4-for-4 from the floor for 11 fourth-quarter points. Tim Duncan had 21 and 10 on 9-for-10 shooting, and the Spurs survived the heat to throttle the HEAT down the stretch.
Some will point to the conditions in the arena and blame them for Miami’s loss, but everyone else had to play in those same temperatures on the court, so please leave the excuses at home. James finished with a game-high 25 points on 9-of-17 shooting from the floor.
Hopefully the fans on the opposite side of the LeBron reactionary spectrum don’t peddle the idea he should have soldiered through the leg cramps. He had to be carried back to the bench in the fourth after giving it another go; you don’t just play through that. There will be at least one Lay-Z-Boy columnist who claims “true champions” play through the pain, while whining about their back slumped over a computer.
(video via YouTube username Frank Den)
Would the Spurs have won if LeBron stayed in the game?
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