The barbs were subtle, but distinct.
It would appear the Heat has no faith in those in charge of properly conditioning the temperatures inside AT&T Center.
“We anticipate we will play in a very cool gym,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said before Saturday’s practice at the Spurs’ practice facility. “We will have to deal with that now. I don’t know if guys will be wearing tights under their shorts and long-sleeved shirts, I don’t know.”
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Spoelstra and his team are still angry over the conditions for Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The oppressive heat and humidity inside the arena that caused LeBron James to cramp and miss the final four minutes of the game will be a source of motivation for the defending back-to-back champions entering Game 2 on Sunday. James participated in the Heat’s light practice Saturday and will play in Game 2 after watching the end of Game 1 on the bench.
Spoelstra doesn’t expect any playing restrictions for James, who was carried to the Heat’s bench in the fourth quarter of Game 1 after his legs cramped up violently.
“I’m doing well, doing a lot better,” James said. “The soreness is starting to get out. I’m feeling better than I did [Friday] and with another day, I should feel much better [Sunday].”
The Heat is 12-0 in games after playoff losses dating to the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, and extending that streak Sunday would give the team the required road victory it needs to win this series and its third consecutive NBA championship. The Heat and Spurs traded victories throughout the 2013 Finals until the Heat won Games 6 and 7 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“I think it’s pretty consistent throughout the playoffs and in the season with this team, especially when it really matters,” said Dwyane Wade, who was limited to two points in the fourth quarter of Game 1. “I think this team has done a good job of — one thing we do is come in, learn from our mistakes, own up to our mistakes, figure out how we can be better coming into the next game and we make those adjustments, and it’s worked out for us.
“I’m not saying that’s automatic and it means we’re going to win the ballgame, but up to this point it’s worked out for us … just being consistent, you know, owning up to what we didn’t do well the first game and trying to come out and right our wrong.”
Turnovers were a problem in Game 1, as excellent defensive pressure by both the Heat and Spurs made for some sloppy play. The teams combined for 41 giveaways, with the Spurs committing 23.
“I’m sure they’re saying the same thing,” Spoelstra said. “It’s a big-time possession series so the miscues that we had offensively, we had some rough possessions particularly in that fourth quarter. We would like to clean that up with our execution and efficiency, and not letting them flatten us out, where we’re still able to get to our game.
“Defensively, although we forced the type of turnovers that we typically would like, we still had more than enough breakdowns where they had great paint opportunities.”
Mario Chalmers played poorly in Game 1, and backup Norris Cole wasn’t much better. The spotlight will be on those players to improve. Chalmers had five fouls and committed five turnovers in just 17 minutes of action. Cole had two points in 29 minutes.
Asked Saturday how to stay out of foul trouble, Chalmers said he was “still trying to figure that out.”
Limiting the Spurs’ chances inside is another necessary adjustment the Heat addressed Saturday. Led by Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter, the Spurs outscored the Heat 48-36 in the paint.
“We need to do what we do better and harder,” Spoelstra said.
“They make it tough with their passing and, you know, getting into the paint with their roles and spreading you out with three-point shooters.”
Chris Bosh, who had 18 points and nine rebounds in Game 1, was confident Saturday that the Heat would bounce back. Not only did the two days between games give James’ legs time to heal, but they also forced the Heat to focus more closely on its mistakes.
“You know, for some reason it always works out that we always lose the game before a two-day rest and then kind of really just gets us going,” Bosh said. “I guess it’s punishment, you have to wait a little bit longer.
“We have to really take it as just time to get more game plan in, make sure we work our game and let our bodies rest and recuperate and get ready for Game 2.”