The CRAMP Game and 5 Things I want to see in Game 2

Let me be the first one to say that I am happy the Spurs won Game 1. Nope, I’m not a huge fan of San Antonio (though I’ve always admired their clockwork-style play and Pop’s curiously terse way of saying, “That’s a dumb question”), but I am a bona fide Miami hater (haterade in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening — it’s as constant as Manila’s 33-degree heat).

Top left: Everyone is talking about LBJ's cramps.
Top right: Everyone's also talking about not having AC.
Bottom: Not as many are talking about what actually happened --
a win for the Spurs.

Heat cramped Miami’s style?
What was a really tight game turned into a rout late in the fourth thanks to several contributing factors: LeBron James being unable to return to the game due to a REALLY bad case of cramps, Danny Green (and basically everyone wearing white) catching fire from long range, and Mario Chalmers being, well, Mario Chalmers. Had LBJ not cramped up, would the Heat have held on to win? The game was really too close to call to begin with, and it was playing out that way, too, so it would be highly speculative (read: irresponsibly inaccurate) to say the Heat would’ve absolutely held on to win (even if he is the best player on the planet, he isn’t a perpetual defensive panacea). Would their chances have been greater? Definitely. Would their defense have been better? Sure. Would it have prevented the Spurs from routinely hitting those threes and making crisp passes? I don’t know about that. Again, that kind of thinking is highly speculative and, in a game like this with stakes so high, we should only really deal with what happened on the court.

Doesn't get much tighter than this.
(screencap from ESPN)

And here’s what happened on the court in the payoff period:

- San Antonio shot 14/16 from the field, including a perfect 6/6 from three-point land.
- San Antonio had outscored Miami, 10-8, by the time LBJ first left at the 7:31 mark. The Spurs had already shot 4/4 (as a result of from the field even before LBJ first cramped up.
- Miami shot the ball 7/16 from the field, with Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen combining for 1/6 FG shooting.
- Chris Bosh was actually the one playing well here. He shot 3/4 from the floor, but all those came in the first 3-4 minutes of the period. In contrast, LBJ went 0/2 in that span.
- James made a tough lay-up at the 4:09 mark to cut the deficit down to 2 points. He left the game for good shortly after.
- In the final 4 minutes of the game, with San Antonio up by just 2, and still three potential future Hall-of-Famers on the floor (If you find it mildly offensive that Bosh might be in the HoF, then let’s concede that Miami still had two current All-Stars and the best shooter in league history on the floor, okay?), the two-time defending champions scored just one basket (Yay, Chalmers! Woot!) while four different Spurs scored their team’s last six buckets.

Refer to the following shot chart courtesy of ESPN:

After everything, the Spurs just shot much much better. It was, in fact, the best shooting
display in a quarter in NBA Finals history.
(screencap from ESPN)

No NBA game is won on speculation, in simulations, on tabletops, or with the roll of dice. These games —  breaks, fortuitous events, bad calls, and all — are won and lost by professionals, some of whom are the best athletes in the world.

Not having AC was a factor - Yes.

LBJ cramping up was a factor - Yes.

No cure for this kind of cramps.
(image by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The Spurs’ hot shooting was a factor (the best shooting quarter in Finals history) - Yes.

Udonis Haslem playing 0 minutes was a factor - ask D-Wade, who said postgame maybe they needed to go deeper into their bench in the fourth.

The choice of sports drink was a factor - debatable.

The fact is, unfortunate as it was, James’s case of severe cramps was not enough to lose this game for Miami. They were still in a position to win. They still had the tools to win. They just didn’t win.

As Jeff Van Gundy put it in the fourth quarter, Miami still had Dwyane Wade, a guy who could still carry a team (at least for the last five minutes of a game) by himself. They were by no means done when LBJ was out.

But here’s another fact, too — those grizzled Heat, if history is to be our barometer, will bounce back in a big way in Game 2.

If I were a Heat fan, I would feel disappointed after losing Game 1, but if I were a Spurs fan, I would feel anxious to see just how motivated Miami is going to be in Game 2.

Does James deserve flak for cramping up?
Hell no. Is he prone to cramping? Maybe. I mean, he’s had prior history of cramping up in the NBA Finals, but in that precedent, he actually returned and was, unsurprisingly, instrumental in leading the Heat to a W.

(For some thoughts on LBJ’s cramping history, refer to this episode from The Starters.)

In this game, he didn’t return (after leaving the second time), although it’s clear he wanted to. He could barely move. This was a singular physical specimen, inexplicably gifted with an uncanny combo of strength and speed (if the Juggernaut could play ball, he’d be LBJ), whose body just passed a tipping point. He was airlifted off the court for God’s sake (this is the most action James Jones will see in the Finals BTW)! Even Coach Spo knew better than to put his ace back in the gauntlet (read: sauna).

LBJ gets carried out of the court.
(image from Grantland)

AFAIK, all these NBA guys do everything they can to be as ready as possible, especially on the biggest stage possible. Unless someone didn’t give LBJ his electrolytes (Maybe it’s the energy drink after all?), he should have been set. He said it himself — he changed his jersey at the half, he was iced up, and he hydrated like crazy.

And, yet, despite everything, despite not having to leave the court due to cramps in two years, nearly all of his left side still hurt enough for him to get sidelined. That happens, and, despite that, teams still have to play basketball.

How does this affect his legacy?
More than Kim Kardashian’s naming her kid North West but not as much as Miley Cyrus’s twerking with impudence and licking a hammer. LBJ’s being carried out will not be career-defining, but it’ll be meme-worthy, at least until he does his next crazy-jaw-dropping-highlight-reel move (which we’ll probably see in Game 2).

Unless, of course, Gatorade and Body Armor use it as a selling point/punchline.

On to Game 2 – These are 5 things I want to see:
Air-conditioning (or, you know, those Lance Stephenson-esque IWATA vapor-blowing thingies):
I know several players said that playing in 90-degree temperature reminded them of rec-ball, playing in front of Cameron Crazies, or even playing in the Euroleague, but the folks over at the AT&T Center just better fix this mess. It’s funny for one quarter. It’s headline material for an entire game (and in the Finals at that). If this happens again, however, they might as well demolish the whole stadium and just play out in the desert (dibs on the open-air ice candy stand). Blame the wiring and the electricals for Game 1, but, hell, if this happens again, then heads better roll, Peter Holt.

Hey, even the Spurs hated the heat! (hehehe)
(image from Bleacher Report)

Boris Diaw and/or Rashard Lewis lighting it up:
The average age of these two guys is 33 years old. Both have been mentioned as potential x-factors for their respective teams. Diaw is a passing phenom whose athleticism is hidden beneath his girth, while Lewis has moved on from being “blatantly overpaid” to “blatantly left wide open.” They’ve had their moments in these Playoffs (Diaw here and Lewis here), and it would be a great sight to see either/both of them do something really significant in Game 2.

More great offense versus more great defense:
San Antonio is the eat-all-you-can buffet of pick-and-rolls. There is just no end to it, and the Spurs execute it in so many ways. Heck, when they pick-and-roll, it’s not even to get either the ball-handler or the screener free, it’s to get the third guy or the fourth guy free. They just play so much ahead of the curve, and it’s excruciatingly difficult to decide whom you’ll cover if you’re a Miami perimeter defender like Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers, or Norris Cole.

On the other end of the floor, Miami’s pressure/trapping defense is just so suffocating and difficult to break. The Spurs, who averaged just around 12 turnovers heading into the Finals, coughed the rock up 22 times against the blitzing Heat trap. Miami normed just 7 steals a game throughout their Eastern Conference run in the postseason, but in this game they picked the Spurs’ pockets 14 times.

In short, all these things combined for superbly efficient and wildly entertaining basketball. Let’s have more of it.

LeBron James not cramping:
I want to see LBJ lose in these Finals, but I don’t want him to go out with cramps or any other injury. I don't want to, ten years from now, watch his documentary and hear him say, “It would have been different had I not had cramped up or had been superkicked in the At&T Center by Shawn Michaels.”

Like Tony Parker, I want San Antonio to beat a full-strength Miami squad that cannot bank on any excuses.

And I think it’d be pretty embarrassing if Miami would get a win without LeBron anyway.

Spurs winning:
At this point in the Finals, there could be nothing better than San Antonio heading to Florida up 2-0, if only because the Heat have been unbeaten at home in the Playoffs and, well, I have my reservations about the Spurs winning on the road against the defending champs (see Game 6 and Game 7 from last year).

It goes without saying, of course, that, for this to happen, we need Danny Green to be white-hot again.

And nobody getting cramps.

Here's a nifty infographic on Game 1 from

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