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Game 1: No Need to Ask Kawhi the Spurs Won

June 7, 2013

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(Photos by Edward A. Ornelas & Kin Man Hui of the San Antonio Express-News)

When listing the reasons why the Spurs beat the Heat 92-88 in Game 1 of the 2013 NBA Finals, most will point to yet another spectacular night by Tony Parker or Tim Duncan’s determined second half performance after a slow start.  And while Parker’s miraculous shot clock buzzer-beater with 5.2 seconds remaining certainly clinched the victory for San Antonio, there were several other factors just as important, if not more so.

It seems counterintuitive to single out a defensive performance against someone who posted a triple double, but Kawhi Leonard was absolutely outstanding all night guarding LeBron James, holding him to a playoff-low 18 points on 7-of-16 shooting from the field.  This was a highly-anticipated matchup going into The Finals, and it did not disappoint.  It’s extremely doubtful LeBron will be held under 20 points every game in this series, but if Leonard can keep up this level of defense, the Heat will have a long road to hoe.

The Spurs received a significant boost on offense from Danny Green, whose 12 points may not look like much at first glance, but he hit four clutch three-pointers at critical moments in the game – including a real backbreaker with just over two minutes remaining to boost the Spurs’ lead to seven.  San Antonio typically relies heavily on three-pointers, and on a night when the rest of his teammates combined to go a dismal 3-for-14 from beyond the arc, Green really delivered.

Considering the fact that his poor showing during last year’s Western Conference Finals against the Thunder was a major factor in the Spurs’ shocking exit following their 20-game win streak, it’s a real credit to Green that he’s put that behind him and matured into a player capable of coming through without shrinking again under the brightest of spotlights.

Team-wise, the single biggest factor in the Spurs winning Game 1 is that they tied an all-time Finals record by committing only four turnovers on the night.  This is especially remarkable when you consider the fact that Miami had forced Indiana into 111 turnovers during the Eastern Conference Finals, including a whopping 21 in Game 7.  Securing the ball will be key for San Antonio the rest of the way if they want to emerge victorious over the Heat and claim their fifth title.

So now, it’s on to Game 2.  Some might consider it an overstatement to label that a must-win game for the Heat, but you have to think their odds of winning the series become close to infinitesimal if they face heading to San Antonio for three games in the Alamo City down 0-2.  Expect an epic battle on Sunday night.  The Spurs could really start nailing the proverbial coffin with a win.

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