The Heat had to play seven hard-fought games against the Pacers to reach the championship round. The Spurs, meanwhile, had 10 days to rest after taking care of the Grizzlies in just four games in the Western Conference Finals.
After a rough fourth quarter for Miami led to San Antonio taking Game 1 on the Heat’s home floor, both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade said afterward that fatigue was a factor for their team down the stretch.
“The fourth quarter was the difference,” James said. “I can see it on a few of our guys’ faces. Felt a little fatigued, still a little banged up from that seven‑game series. They looked like they were rested in the fourth quarter. They took advantage of that.”
“Obviously I thought that we were a little fatigued, honestly, in the fourth quarter, looking around,” Wade said. “We looked like a team that came off a seven‑game series.”
James and Wade aren’t into making excuses after a loss; they were simply telling it as they saw it during the game’s final 12 minutes. And the numbers back up what they had to say.
Over the first three quarters of the game, Miami was shooting better than 48 percent from the field, and had committed a total of just four turnovers during that span. In the fourth quarter alone, the Heat shot just 27.8 percent (5-of-18) and turned it over five times.
In fact, James uncharacteristically asked for some rest to start the fourth, which had him and Wade sitting on the bench at the same time.
“I told him I needed one,” James said, when asked why head coach Erik Spoelstra chose to rest him to start the period. “At that point I had played the whole third. I had been accustomed to being able to start the fourth. But the third quarter was so — I was in the paint, defensive rebounding, I was closing out Kawhi Leonard on shooters. It took all in the tank from me in the third quarter. So I needed a little breather.”
The fatigue isn’t going to go away for the Heat in this series, and even though it wasn’t anywhere near the main reason they lost to a team far more rested, it was clearly a factor that showed some measurable results.