SAN ANTONIO – When the air conditioning went out in San Antonio, many of the Spurs felt right at home – their native homelands.
They are a roster loaded with foreign players, accustomed to playing in places where air conditioning not only isn’t optional, it’s not even available.
“It gets crazy sometimes,” forward Boris Diaw of France said. “It goes to 95, 96.”
It wasn’t quite that bad inside the AT&T Center during Game 1 of the NBA Finals, where the temperature hovered around 90 degrees and the thermometer received as much attention as the scoreboard in the Spurs’ 110-95 victory.
The Spurs weren’t immune to the steamy arena, they just handled it better. They have nine players born outside of the United States, representing an NBA-record seven countries, and even Danny Green, one of their few Americans, played internationally earlier in his career when he couldn’t stick in the NBA. And while Diaw said it was the hottest NBA game he could remember, all the Spurs said they had faced worse. They probably won’t have to endure it again, at least not in this series.
The teams already were scheduled to work out Friday and Saturday at the Spurs’ training facility, and Spurs officials announced just before practice began that the air conditioning system was “fully operational.”
Commissioner Adam Silver said a breaker about the size of a car battery failed and workers couldn’t replace it because they didn’t know what effect that would have on the rest of the power to arena. Silver said workers from the facility and league, along with an outside expert, checked it out and are confident everything is repaired and will be fine for Game 2 tonight.
And even if it isn’t, the Spurs would probably handle it. They have developed a mental toughness, the kind it will take to bounce back from last year’s gut-wrenching NBA Finals loss to the Heat.
“Being a champion is not easy,” Green said. “It’s not going to come easy.”
The Spurs won’t be rattled by something like the conditions. The two-time defending champion Heat will have to do that itself.
“Anybody can be rattled, but this team is more difficult to rattle than others,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “They have great poise. They’re always a step ahead a little bit.”
They were way ahead down the stretch, particularly after the demoralized Heat realized LeBron James – sidelined with cramps – had been lost for good with about four minutes remaining. And, as is often the case for the Spurs, this game was won just as much with their minds.
“I feel part of our downfall in that game was mental and physical fatigue down the stretch. You know, rotations and things that we normally do wasn’t done last night,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. “It wasn’t from not having the will or the want to do it.”
The Spurs never lose that. Even after their unforgettable Game 6 defeat last season, when they blew a five-point lead in the final half-minute of regulation with a chance to win the title, they came back two nights later and pushed the Heat into the final minutes of Game 7.
Even with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili both on the wrong side of 35, the Spurs brought back all five starters and 12 players overall, rather than try to make fixes some thought might be needed to stay atop the Western Conference.
Coach Gregg Popovich doesn’t know what causes his players to have their mental fortitude, but it’s clear they do.
“It’s difficult to judge or paint things with too big a brush,” he said. “I think individual players have their own individual qualities and traits. I think some players are softer than others, some are tougher than others. But that doesn’t change, it’s just who they are.”
The Heat has it as well. Five times they have lost Game 1 of a series since 2011, including last year to the Spurs, and each time bounced back to win Game 2 and eventually the series. They were disappointed by the finish to Thursday’s game but not shaken, especially since James said he expects to be 100 percent by tonight.
“We have to do some things better, more committed, five-man (defense) against a very good passing team. They’re well-schooled,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Some things that we need to adjust on. That’s what we’ll figure out in the next couple of days.”