SAN ANTONIO — LeBron James was angry. And frustrated.
He sat on the bench and watched Game 1 of the NBA Finals slip away from his Heat, his body so cramped up Heat coach Eric Spoelstra wouldn’t let him try to return.
“You know, after I came out of the game, they kinda took off,” LeBron James told a pool reporter allowed to interview him after the game. “And it was frustrating sitting out and not be able to help our team.”
These weren’t the game conditions anybody expected — the temperature inside the AT&T Center kept climbing and climbing throughout Game 1, getting up into the 90s in the fourth quarter. Plus it was humid. A shorted out circuit breaker had shut the air conditioning in the building down — a sold out building that just kept getting hotter and hotter.
It was all too much for LeBron James’ body, which cramped up, pushing him to the bench to watch helplessly as the Spurs went on a 26-9 run to close out the game and take a 1-0 series lead.
“I mean, it’s frustration and anger, but at the same time it’s something that you try to prevent, you try to control,” LeBron said. “I mean, I got all the fluids I need to get, I do my normal routine I’ve done and it was inevitable for me tonight, throughout the conditions, you know, out there on the floor,” LeBron said. I lost all the fluids that I was putting in in the last couple of days out there on the floor. It sucks not being out there for your team, especially at this point in the season.”
LeBron had been slowing down and left the game with 7:31 remaining — he asked out, grabbing his back and clearly cramping and in pain.It was a two-point Heat lead at the time. LeBron got ice, fluids a few minutes of rest and came back in with 4:33 left and his team now down four.
He made a driving layup, it was a two-point game.
Then his left leg cramped up.
“It was the whole left leg, damn near the whole left side,” LeBron said. “I was losing a lot (of fluids) throughout the game. It was extremely hot in the building, you know, both teams, fans, everybody could feel it. I was the one that had to take the shot.”
After making the shot and cramping up he couldn’t even run down the court, he stood there on the baseline unable to walk, forcing the Heat to foul to stop the game (then the Heat players on the court had to come down and get him off the court before the referees forced Miami to use its one remaining timeout).
With LeBron off the court the Spurs got an instant three from Danny Green to spark a 16-3 run that gave them a Game 1 win.
LeBron never returned to the game and with a couple minutes left he limped back to locker room.
But he expects to be good to go for Game 2 Sunday night. He’s happy there are three days off.
“I need it, I need it, I need it,” LeBron said. “We’re going to start tonight, continue to get the fluids in me and get me ready for Sunday. Thankful for the fact that I can get on it tonight, and put myself in a position where I can be out there for my team for the long haul. And sitting on the sideline, you know, if I’m not in foul trouble, is not good for us and not good for me. Look forward to Game 2 and go from there.”
LeBron had a +/- of zero for the game — the Heat played the Spurs even when he was on the court in Game 1. They lost by 15. The Heat have won every playoff series in the big three era where they have lost Game 1, but against these Spurs the Heat cannot afford to go down 2-0.
And to get Game 2, the Heat are going to need a healthy and almost transcendent LeBron.