The Spurs beat the Heat Saturday night.
And the Heat wilted in the heat.
With the air conditioning out in San Antonio, the first game of the NBA Finals Series will be known as “The Cramps Game.”
You wonder if that episode of cramps fit for a king will both define the series and Lebron James.
The fella who is supposed to carry his team on his broad, athletic shoulders was carried off the court Thursday night with severe cramps as San Antonio surged to victory.
The comments on social media, like recent storm systems, came in waves.
Michael Jordan led his team to victory while battling the flu bug. James couldn’t overcome cramps.
James never worked a summer basketball camp in a small gymnasium.
James ought to experience playing football in August in south Louisiana.
In the 1984 NBA Finals in which the temperature in the Boston Garden was 94 degrees (not to mention the tobacco smoke), Larry Bird led the Celtics to victory with 31 points and 17 rebounds. Veteran sports writer Bob Ryan said fewer clothes were worn in the Garden that night than any time in history. And the players may have had on the most clothes.
To be fair, the cramps to James in the 90-degree heat were not garden-variety cramps. He has a history of cramps.
However, many athletic trainers I know do not tolerate cramps because most of the time they relate to hydration, which they consider a personal responsibility. James let down his team and damaged his reputation by possibly not fully hydrating, particularly before the game and at halftime. As a professional athlete, facing that kind of heat as was in the AT&T Center on Thursday, James should have known to hydrate to a fault. That’s part of leadership and if the Heat lose the series, the heat will be on him.
And it’s too bad the focus is what James didn’t do rather than what the Spurs did.
One of the major keys to that game was the Spurs shot 58 percent from the field, 52 percent from 3-point range and overcame 20-plus turnovers. Tim Duncan added to his resume of greatness with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Danny Green, one of the game’s best streak shooters, went off at a key juncture.
Was an asterisk (James out for a key juncture) needed? You can make the case that it wasn’t.
The Spurs won, as I think they will in this series, because they were the best team (meaning sum of all the parts). They may be the hungriest team. They were the most opportunistic team.
One game will not make this series.
But in the heat of battle and in a challenging enviroment, the Spurs may be the coolest team.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @dmaclcd)