Jun 6 2014, 4:21am CDT | by Poch de la Rosa
"Danny Green has one great skill, and fortunately for the San Antonio Spurs, he revealed it at the right time Thursday.
"Green, an adept three-point shooter, made three long-distance shots in the fourth quarter, and the Spurs defeated the Miami Heat 110-95 Thursday in the first game of the NBA Finals.
"Last year, Green set an NBA Finals record with 27 three-pointers in San Antonio's seven-game loss to Miami.
"'That's what he does,' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. 'If he's not going to do that, then we might as well play somebody else. That's the honest to God's truth.'
"The Spurs finished with a 31-9 run. They hit 14 of 16 shots in the fourth quarter, including all six three-point attempts.
"The game was played under horrible conditions. The air conditioning at AT&T Center malfunctioned because of an electrical failure, and temperatures on the court reached above 90 degrees.
"When James departed with 7:31 remaining, the Heat led by two points. He returned briefly but then left for good.
"'I was going to try to give it a go, and (coach Erik Spoelstra) said no,' James said to a pool reporter following the game. 'It sucks at this point in time in the season...It was frustrating sitting out...
"My muscles spasmed 10 out of 10. The best thing for me to do was not move.'
"James was receiving treatment after the game and did not speak to the media.
"'We're used to having the hotter arena at this time of year,' Spoelstra said. 'But both teams had to deal with it.'"
The Heat got off to a fast start after forward Chris Bosh and James joined forces in a 7-2 spurt to open up the scoring. San Antonio's Many Ginobili made two three-pointers on consecutive possesions at the 5:20 mark of the first quarter to give the Spjurs a five-point lead at 18-13.
James then made one of two free throws to inch the Heat closer at 21-20. However, San Antonio would go on a 5-0 run behind a Tiago Splitter layup and a Patty Mills triple to give the Spurs their biggest lead of the game at that point.
However, the Heat, the defending two-time champions, wouldn't fold easily.
Thirty-eight-year-old guard Ray Allen came off the bench to score 10 points -- including nine on three three-pointers -- in the second quarter. His last of the period brought Miami to within 42-41. From there on out, the lead would fluctuate between one and five points. The Heat did not score in the last 2:31 of the period. Their last bucket was when Bosh scored off a Norris Cole assist. Duncan would score three points during Miami's dry spell to give his team a 54-49 lead at halftime.
The Spurs threatened to pull away as they established a nine-point lead in the first minute of the second half. Kawhi Leonard made a layup while Green made two free throws. Miami countered with its own 8-0 run -- a Dwyane Wade three-pointer, a Rashard Lewis jumper and another Wade three-pointer to trim the deficit to just one, forcing Popovich to call timeout.
James reclaims the lead for the Heat, 62-60, with his own triple at the 7:22 mark of the third period. Allen converted on a driving layup to tie the game at 69-all. He and James would score their team's next six points to give them a 75-69 lead with 1:23 remaining in the quarter. James' triple with eight seconds left was countered by Splitter's bucket off a pass from Tony Parker, who finished with eight assists. The Heat would lead, 78-74, after three.
Miami would continue to hold off San Antonio in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter. Chris Bosh scored six points during that frame to give his team a seven-point lead at 86-79. When James left two minutes later due to cramping, the Heat had a two-point lead.
This was precisely when Green would take over.
After he checked in for Kawhi Leonard, he made two consecutive threes. Heat forward/center Chris Andersen would then trade baskets with Duncan before Green would make a dunk after Dwyane Wade missed on the other end.
Spoelstra called for time after the Spurs' surge. James then checked in for Andersen, making a driving layup to keep the Heat within striking distance at 94-92. Green still waxed hot -- he made his third three-pointer of the period in San Antonio's next possession for a five-point lead, 97-92.
Miami guard Mario Chalmers' three at the 2:46 mark would be the last points the Heat would score -- the Spurs uncorked a lethal, game-ending 11-0 run highlighted by Leonard and Tony Parker. Leonard made two triples while Parker made a three of his own plus an 18-footer to seal the deal.
At game's end, Duncan told MySanAntonio.com's Dan McCarney that Green was the key in breaking the game wide open for the Spurs.
"The way he shoots the ball, I assume every time he shoots it it's going in. So we want him to get as many shots as possible. He's a confident, capable shooter. So he hits two and then we call a play for him, he hits another one and that really opens up the game for us."
Game 2 will be on Sunday, June 8 at San Antonio's AT&T Center with an 8:00 p.m. EST tip-off.
Poch de la Rosa
Poch de la Rosa follows all major U.S. sports: NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and the NCAA. His favorite teams are the Colts, Braves, Pacers, Sharks and Irish, respectively.
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