The well-rested San Antonio Spurs stole home court advantage from the Miami Heat on Thursday with the help of a clutch shot from Tony Parker in the waning seconds of Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Parker, who finished with a game-high 21 points, ran the clock down before nailing an off-balance jump shot with just 5.2 seconds left in regulation as the Spurs beat the mistake-prone Heat 92-88 to take a 1-0 lead in the NBA Finals.
Parker held onto the ball for all of the 24 second clock as he bobbed and weaved his way through the Miami defenders before throwing up a desperate jump shot from 4m that rattled in to cap the scoring in front of a crowd of 19,775 at the American Airlines arena.
“It felt forever, too,” Parker said. “It was a crazy play. I thought I lost the ball three or four times. It didn’t work out like I wanted it to. At the end I was just trying to get a shot up. I was happy it went in.”
Parker seemed to slip past every Heat player at one point in the series, but when it came time to shoot he was defended by LeBron James. However, the Frenchman still got the shot off just before the 24-second shooting clock expired.
“Tony did everything wrong and did everything right in the same possession,” James said. “He stumbled two or three times, he fell over and when he fell over I was like: ‘OK, I am going to have to tie this ball up.’”
“He got up and went under my arm. I got a great contest ... it barely got off. That was the longest 24 seconds that I’ve been part of,” James said.
James cannot be faulted for his defense on Parker’s clutch shot, but the Heat did make their share of blunders down the stretch and finished with eight turnovers on the night.
Miami appeared to be heading to a Game 1 victory at home, leading 72-69 at the end of the third and 76-73 with just over nine minutes left in regulation, before letting it slip away.
“We had our chances to win,” said James, who finished with his 10th career triple-double with 18 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists.
Miami will also host Game 2 of the series, but the defending NBA champions, the Heat, have their work cut out for them in the 2-3-2 best-of-seven series format that rewards San Antonio with three games at home if the series goes long.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said they tried to keep their game plan simple and he told the players not to get frustrated during the stretches of the game when things were not going their way.
Renaissance man Tim Duncan, who is seeking his fifth NBA title and first since 2007, also had a superb game for the Spurs. Duncan shot eight of 19 from the field, and finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds in the win.
“It has been a lot of years since we have been here,” said Duncan, who is having his best season in three years.
“Old veterans, whatever you want to call us. We’re in the mix right now,” he added.