As James drove into the teeth of the defense, Duncan left Bosh (0-for-4 on 3-pointers) on the perimeter to help Leonard, meeting James a
few feet before he was to take off for the rim.
“I thought it was going in,” said Bosh. “It felt on line. LeBron made a great pass.”
Just as the Spurs wanted, James kicked the ball to Bosh, whose infatuation with the 3-pointer has been an ongoing theme throughout these playoffs.
“You know what, we’ll take that shot,” Spoelstra said. “He’s been making those. It’s an open shot in the fourth quarter. It didn’t come down to that. There were more plays going down the stretch. Turnovers, random possessions where we didn’t get to where we wanted to like that. We didn’t get the shots that we wanted to.”
If it wasn’t obvious before this series began, the Spurs are going to do everything in their power to make things as difficult as possible for the Heat – and James – in terms of getting the paint for easy buckets or trips to the foul line.
The measly 14 paint points Miami mustered in the second half, combined with 1-of-8 shooting on jumpers outside the lane in the fourth quarter, worked in part because the Spurs were fresh and the Heat were fatigued from their battle with Indiana.
“Obviously, I thought that we were a little fatigued, honestly, in the fourth quarter, looking around,” said Wade, who scored 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting but was scoreless in the final period. “We looked like a team that came off a seven‑game series. I thought we got some shots we wanted. But we were a little careless at times as well. We turned it over.”
The Heat committed just nine turnovers. They had just four through the first 37 minutes, then had five in 14 possessions over the next seven-plus minutes, when they went from up three points to down six.
As the series moves forward, the Spurs know the Heat likely won’t have another quarter as miserable as this one. They also know their total of four turnovers – a record for fewest in a Finals game – won’t be the norm.
In Game 1, San Antonio accounted for James to be the high-IQ player he has always been, making the passes that lead to open shots for teammates. James appeared content to play that way, saying afterward, “I know my guys will be there to knock those shots down the next game” and “I’m not too much worried about what I do as far as scoring.”
Going forward, San Antonio may have to account for James to be a more aggressive scorer – to take even greater responsibility – with or without the extra defensive attention he gets. Will he still trust his teammates? Of course; that’s one of the things that makes him an extremely special, otherworldly talent.
But if Miami wants to repeat as champions, Spoelstra, James and his teammates are going to have to figure out ways to move the ball from side-to-side more efficiently and effectively to counteract San Antonio’s rock-solid defensive rotations in the paint.
“The Spurs are the Spurs,” James said. “They’re going to put you in positions where you feel uncomfortable offensively and defensively. And every time you make a mistake, they’re going to capitalize on it.”
This is the fourth time the Heat have lost a series opener since James took his talents to South Beach. On the previous three occasions – 2011 vs. Chicago, last year vs. Oklahoma City and this year vs. Chicago – they have roared back and reeled off four straight wins.
“I think one thing about our team is that we’ve gotten better as the series have gone on,” James said.
It seems unlikely for Miami to take four straight games from a quality opponent like San Antonio. But if they are to win this series at all, the Heat will have to put together four strong quarters, and fast.
Because if they don’t do so in Game 2 on Sunday, they will face an uphill battle that might be too steep to climb.
Jeremy Bauman is an aspiring shooting coach and scout who writes columns and blogs for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.