Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Black Cloud Already Sits above Series

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Black Cloud Already Sits above Series

Article excerpt

SAN ANTONIO -- Did the Heat just lose to the Spurs, or to the heat?

What a shame there would be any doubt about that. What an outrageous embarrassment for the NBA, on its greatest stage, that a game-long lack of air-conditioning in San Antonio's arena would leave fans sweating and, far worse, affect so crucial a game.

This night was about the heat in all its forms.

The literal kind draped itself over the arena like a sopping blanket because of an electrical problem that powered the AC, sending temperatures above 90 degrees.

The Heat that starts with a capital letter withered in the conditions, squandering a fourth-quarter lead to the Spurs and losing, 110-95, in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

And now the figurative kind of heat, the bad kind, the kind that weighs heavy, is on Miami.

It was a bizarre night, an unfortunate one for San Antonio and for the league, not just for Miami.

The lack of air-conditioning in the arena left the atmosphere almost unbearably hot, spectators fanning themselves with programs as if outdoors in the Sahara at noon. Luckily, one team is from a tropical climate where humidity is king, and the other resides in what feels like northern Mexico, so hot here the eggs fry while still in the chicken.

Still, what an embarrassment for San Antonio and the NBA for its Finals to open with no AC. What's in store for tonight's Game 2? Flickering lights? Massive plumbing backup?

It affected the game.

You can say it should have affected both teams equally, but if it affected the Heat and especially LeBron James more -- as it certainly seemed to -- that should be no fault of Miami's. No game should be played in these conditions -- let alone one so hugely important, perhaps season-defining.

Don't get this wrong. There were other reasons Miami lost. The defense saw San Antonio shoot 59 percent. The Heat was outrebounded. The Spurs scored 48 points in the paint.

Still, the game changed when the conditions forced James out.

At one point James waved himself out of the game for a rest at a time when he normally would not. He complained of difficulty breathing in the steamy humidity.

"They're trying to smoke us out of here," a miked-up James said in a timeout after asking to come out.

In the fourth quarter, James, who had 25 points, cramped up and again had to briefly leave the game. After he came back, cramps struck again. He could hardly move and had to come right out again, the Spurs overtaking the lead in this span.

"It was like a punch in the gut," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

James could not return -- he played only five minutes in the fourth quarter and missed the final 3:59 of the game -- and already was in the locker room as the game ended. …

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