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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, June 6, 2014 at 9:44 AM



Hey, somebody pass LeBron James a Gatorade… with extra ice!

The four-time Most Valuable Player of the NBA—and two-time NBA Finals MVP—wound up having his own version of a meltdown in Game 1 of this year’s championship round last night in the Alamo City.

No, we’re not gonna sit here and take any kind of verbal pot shots at “The King”, even though he barely played in the game’s final’s 7:31 of last night’s 110-95 triumph by the San Antonio Spurs over the Miami Heat in Game 1 of this year’s NBA Finals, but it’s difficult to ignore the fact that the 90 degree-or-so temps inside the Spurs’ building didn’t kayo anybody else from their time on the floor.

Maybe—as Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich playfully said following his team’s comeback win—they can “pay their bills” and get the air conditioning units fixed in time for Sunday’s Game 2, but you do have to wonder if this cramping issue that’s bogged down James in the past is gonna be what really determines who wins and who loses this year’s NBA crown.

Wouldn’t that be a strange way to end a dynasty!

SAN ANTONIO 110, MIAMI 95—Spurs lead series 1-0

So, Game 1 is in the books but you talk about the game’s many storylines for days to come!

Naturally, James’ cramping issues is Topic 1A on this day-after, but let’s dig a little deeper here and discuss a few other things such as the fact San Antonio shot 14-of-16 from the floor in a 36-point fourth quarter last night, and note the Spurs drained 40-of-68 field-goal attempts (a sizzling-hot 58.8 percent) and you have to wonder why the intense heat inside the building didn’t sap San Ant of its offensive strengths.

The three-point shooting that is so key to the Spurs winning it all this year was downright nasty—how about 13-of-25 from the floor beyond the arc and all hail swingman Danny Green, who finished up with 13 points, including three key triples in the fourth quarter.

In fact, once Green got heated up (please pardon the pun!)—and not long after Miami had built its biggest lead of the night at 86-79 on a Chris Bosh four-point play—everything else that San Antonio players touched turned to gold, whether it was Tim Duncan’s 21-point night on 9-of-10 FG shooting, or maybe you were busy digging the blue-collar work of C Tiago Splitter (see 14 points while canning 5-of-6 FGs).

Simply put, the Spurs waltzed in and took whatever they wanted after James left the court for good in the final three-plus minutes, but the truth is if San Antonio wasn’t so darn sloppy with those 22 turnovers they committed (note Miami was pretty careless too with 16 miscues) than maybe Popovich’s club would have won this game by 25 points!

As ABC’s post-game analysts pointed out, the Heat—up to James’ cramping substitution with 7:31 left—was playing their “A game” with easy movement to the hoop and a real turn-back-the-clock game for G Dwyane Wade, who registered 19 points and only two turnovers in 33 action-packed minutes.

Okay, so what the Heat didn’t get besides a stretch run from James was a strong effort from its bench minus the ageless Ray Allen… we’ve been pounding it into your heads all post-season that this Miami bench has to get some decent productivity from its reserves, and instead Game 1 of these already-sweaty NBA Finals featured 16 big points from Allen (including a dynamite dunk that rocked the house) and precious little else as the other pine guys (that’s Norris Cole, Chris Andersen and Shane Battier) chipped in a mere 4 points in 61 game minutes of play. Ugh!

Let’s just say Miami head coach Erik Spolestra was being kind in not tossing them under the proverbial bus in his post-game presser.

On the flip side, the energy and production the Spurs received from G Manu Ginobili—especially in the first half when San Antonio stormed its way to a 54-49 intermission advantage—was superb as the lefty finished with 16 points, 11 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals and—in case you were wondering—PG Tony Parker (19 points and 8 assists) showed no signs of being slowed down by his balky left ankle and, if anything, didn’t shoot enough for coach “Pop” who commented after the game he wanted his veteran guard to be more aggressive in terms of shot-taking. Keep that under your hat when it comes to Game 2 and beyond, alright?
One other Game 1 factor that may have been glossed over in the aftermath of the James’ cramping:

The Spurs went to the free-throw twice as much as the Heat did with San Antonio netting 17-of-22 foul shots while Miami converted 9-of-11 charity tosses and gotta ask aloud—did some of those chippie open-court fouls on Miami G Mario Chalmers and Wade (they combined for nine personal fouls) appear to be “quick whistles” by this somewhat shaky officiating trio, or were each and every one of the foul calls legit?

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Go ahead and ponder that query as we head towards Sunday night’s Game 2.

Now, here’s the Heat-Spurs series in game-by-game chart form (and note that all home teams are in CAPS below):

6-5 SAN ANTONIO - 5   Miami 110-95

Poinstpread Notes—Okay, so let’s update our NBA Playoff Pointspread stats for the year and now Betting Favorites are 32-50-1 ATS (against the spread) for a .390 winning rate and remember there’s been a pair of pick ‘em games in this post-season. Keep in mind that NBA Playoff Betting Favorites went 15-33-1 ATS with one pick ‘em game in Round I; they went 7-14-0 with one pick ‘em game in Round II; and in the NBA Conference Finals the Favs registered a tidy 9-3-0 ATS mark.

Was it really just eight months ago when the Boston Red Sox were busy beating the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS?

Okay, seems like a lifetime ago when the Bosox copped that series in six games and then went on to capture their third World Series championship in a 10-year span thanks to a six-game series win against St. Louis, but here we enter the first full weekend in June and Boston at Detroit is the headliner series, so let’s take a look at what’s ahead:

BOSTON (27-32) at DETROIT (31-25)—Fr, Sat & Sun
Good luck trying to figure out this year’s Red Sox:

The same team that recently lost 10 games in a row and followed that up with a seven-game winning streak now limps into this weekend set comin’ off a three-game losing streak with 3-2, 5-3 and 7-4 (in 12 innings) setbacks in rainy Cleveland, and so second-year Sox manager John Farrell has found out soon enough that the magic that surrounded his club a year ago when Boston experienced a “worst-to-first” season hasn’t been there for his side very often in 2014.

In this three-game series in Motown, the Red Sox—who are 12-15 on the road this year—will avoid Detroit RHPs Rick Porcello (8-3) and Justin Verlander (6-5), but they will have to deal with reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (6-2, 3.20 ERA), who has already fanned 89 batters in 78.2 innings this season.

Remember that just a couple of weekends back, the Tigers went into Fenway Park and swept the then-sagging Sox 1-0 (a win for Scherzer over LHP Jon Lester), 6-1 (that was Porcello besting RHP John Lackey) and 6-2 (Anibal Sanchez beat RHP Jake Peavy on a Sunday Night Game).

No doubt the Tigers—in Year One under manager Brad Ausmus—have not been the kind of offensive juggernaut they thought coming out of spring training as Detroit ranks just 8th in the league in runs scored (248), and sixth in home runs (56), but one guy to watch for this weekend is DH Victor Martinez, who leads the team with 13 dingers and note he’s struck out just 15 times in 211 total at-bats.

The Tigers enter this series on a five-game losing skid; the Red Sox have lost those three in a row to the Tribe.

Hey, at least neither one of ‘em is Tampa Bay—the down-in-the-dump Rays have lost 10 in a row and dare we say our preseason World Series pick is “done”?

NOTE: Our NBA Finals Game 2 Preview comes your way in tomorrow’s Jim Sez plus catch more MLB News & Notes too!

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