Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, June 7, 2013 at 1:16 PM
Okay, so you watched all the post-game reports following last night's Game 1 of the NBA Finals and you learned that the Miami Heat has lost the series-opening game three other times since 2011 and yet on all three occasions came back to win those series in five games apiece.
You also learned that the San Antonio Spurs - let's go ahead and call 'em what they are and that's the most unsung sports dynasty in our lifetime - are now a perfect 5-and-oh SU (straight-up) in Game 1 in their NBA Finals history and - obviously -- they won all their other four championship round sets dating back to 1999.
So, following San Antonio's defiant 92-88 win at 5-point favorite Miami in Game 1 of this year's NBA Finals you could say that both teams are in been-there-before scenarios ... what, someone was gonna be shocked that a road team was going to win at least one game in this series?
Still, here it was less than an hour removed from the Spurs' win that featured point guard Tony Parker (21 points, 6 assists and 0 turnovers) capping one of the craziest 24-second possessions in league history with his off-the-floor jumper with 5.2 seconds remaining that sealed the win and there was ABC analyst Magic Johnson giving you that look and telling you the defending champion Heat are "in trouble".
Hey, the Magic man made plenty of good points beginning with the stat fact that San Antonio only shot 41.7 percent from the floor (that's 35-of-84 FG shooting) as a team and here was Miami's opportunity to catch the Spurs in their rusty state following that lengthy nine-day respite after Gregg Popovich's gang made it a clean sweep over Memphis in the Western Conference Finals.
In other words, Miami - having played this past Monday night in a Game 7 triumph at home against Indiana - was going to have the seeming advantage of being sharper here for a Game 1 and yet the Spurs shook off some roller-coaster like play in the first half (that included Tim Duncan missing his first five field-goal tries) and trailed by only three points at the half.
But Johnson's other point was even better:
The multi-champion of the Los Angeles Lakers said that seven-game Eastern Conference Finals series against the Pacers had a physical impact on Miami here in the first game of the Finals ... and perhaps you stayed tuned for LeBron James' post-game presser in which he admitted that his team "looked fatigued"in the fourth quarter against San Antonio - a fourth quarter in which Miami scored just 16 points!
One last thing from Magic: He said that it's not real likely that Miami will be able to catch its collective breath following Sunday's Game 2 in South Beach 'cause Games 3 and 4 in San Antonio this Tuesday/Thursday only will give Miami one day rest before each road tilt.
Now, let's examine what exactly happened in Game 1 ...
NBA FINALS - SAN ANTONIO 92, MIAMI 88 - Spurs lead series 1-0; Game 2 is Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC-TV
Was the aforementioned James "too tentative"in the fourth quarter as one post-game panel discussion asked or was he basically being forced to be a distributor late in Game 1?
The way we saw things, James looked for the pass first all game long en route to his glitzy 18-point, 18-rebound, 10-assist performance in Game 1 and we would have preferred to see "The King"barrel towards the hoop more but the Spurs did make things sticky for him with a wall-like defense that picked him up at the free-throw line and forced his hand.
Kudos to both Duncan and Kawhi Leonard for their heady play on James as both really dug in there and made James look for his teammates on the perimeter - but please don't blame James for his "decision"to pass to an open Chris Bosh in the final minute as the Heat lefty (6-of-16 FG shooting for 13 points) simply didn't have the range from deep as he missed all four of his triple tries and James has to be able to trust his mates or else this is Cleveland circa 2007 once again, right?
The biggest part of Miami's failure were those five fourth-quarter turnovers and the inability to box out on a couple of critical Spurs' offensive rebounds and put-back baskets - they broke the Heat's back and really deflated a Miami team that as head coach Erik Spoelstra said played really good defense.
Throw into the mix the fact that Miami only went to the foul line 17 times (making 12) and contrast that with the Game 7 win against Indiana earlier in the week when James alone shot 15-of-16 from the charity stripe. Folks, not many NBA teams are gonna win at home when they attempt and make fewer free throws than the visitor: Miami finished 12-of-17 from the line and San Antonio registered 15-of-18 FTs.
On a night when the Heat bench sported 19 points in the first half and finished up with 30 points including three triple makes by born-again Ray Allen and it still loses, you do wonder if Magic Johnson has a point!
Parker played right at his playoff stats and made a slew of great decisions - how about his 0 turnovers and the team's 16-assists-to-4-turnovers ratio? - while James and Dwyane Wade and others on Miami made some costly boo-boos (throwing the ball out of bounds or to covered teammates) and those "empty possessions"sure came back to haunt the Heat and let us not forget the end-of-the-first-half play where two Heat defenders allowed Duncan to catch it from out of bounds and drain and 18-foot jumper at the buzzer.
Finally, keep in mind we believed the Spurs needed to make double-digit trifectas just to have a shot to win in Game 1: They finished just 7-of-23 from downtown and still won plus we thought if Wade/Bosh combined for 25-plus points the Heat would be in excellent shape and they teamed up for 30 points and still lost.
NBA NEWS & NOTES: THE KARL FIRING ... AND MORE
It's not every day that a just-announced NBA Coach of the Year gets fired but that's what happened to Denver Nuggets boss-man George Karl on Thursday.
According to league sources, Karl - who coached the Nuggets to 57 regular-season wins before yet another first-round playoff ouster (versus #6 seed Golden State) - wanted a contract extension beyond his one year remaining on his deal but Denver refused and so the wheels spin on what happens next with one report claiming Memphis' Lionel Hollins and Karl are going to "switch"jobs as it were with Hollins next getting the gig in Denver and Karl taking his coaching talents to Memphis.
But don't buy the hype!
If anything, Karl - all of a sudden - makes a lot more sense as the next sideline general of the Los Angeles Clippers as reports have PG Chris Paul claiming they need a more veteran coach to lead 'em out of the wilderness while the Brooklyn Nets also could be reaching out for Karl too.
Plus, last night reports circulated that Oklahoma City assistant head coach Mo Cheeks would be names the next head coach of the Detroit Pistons and so - right now - this is how we envision the NBA coaching carousel with the current vacancies:
BROOKLYN - Expect the Nets to wind up with hot commodity Brian Shaw who's been a well-respected member of the Indiana Pacers coaching staff. Yes, PG Deron Williams wants a "proven"head coach but GM Billy King feels better about Shaw and his future than he does with Karl or even long-time friend Larry Brown.
DENVER - The Nuggets reportedly have interest in Shaw too but expect the Mile High City squad to go a different route and one name to watch here (aside from Hollins) is Okie City assistant Rex Kalamian.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS - Karl's the best fit but if there's a sleeper than it might just be one-time NBA lifer Mike Dunleavy.
MEMPHIS - Okay, so Hollins isn't out just yet but it seemingly would take a minor miracle to get back for next season and so two names to watch here not named George Karl would be Boston Celtics assistant Armond Hill or maybe a return to the sidelines for Stan Van Gundy.
NOTE: Catch out NBA Finals Game 2 Preview in the next edition of Jim Sez.