MIAMI — Ultimately, one play did in one player.
So when San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker got himself in trouble and then out of trouble with 5.2 seconds to play, none of the box-score-filling statistics of Miami Heat forward LeBron James amounted to much of consequence.
Instead, the Spurs lead 1-0 in the best-of-seven NBA Finals after Parker’s shot-clock-beating bank shot sealed San Antonio’s 92-88 victory Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Parker closed with 21 points, but it was his final two points that overshadowed James’ 18 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists, his 10th career playoff triple-double.
San Antonio outscored Miami 23-16 in the fourth quarter, with the Heat 5-for-18 from the field with five turnovers.
“We had some poor possessions,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “There’s nothing really you can point a finger at right now until I go back to the film. There were a couple of uncharacteristic turnovers, three of them in the fourth quarter. Uncharacteristic. And probably three or four possessions where we didn’t get organized where we typically get into, and the ball didn’t go where it needed to go.”
With James limited to eight second-half points, the Heat couldn’t overcome the 20 points and 14 rebounds of Spurs forward Tim Duncan — or Parker’s late basket. It was so close to the expiration of the shot clock that a courtside video replay was needed to confirm it.
“That seemed like a 26-second possession,” Spoelstra said. “But we played it all the way through. That’s probably what this series is about. It’s going to go down to the last tenth of a second. Every single play you have to push through all the way to the end, and we didn’t.”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich appreciated how thin his team’s margin was.
“We were very fortunate,” he said of the scramble that led to Parker’s basket. “It looked like he lost it two or three times, but he stuck with it. He kept competing. He gained control of it again. He got it up there on the rim. Great effort by Tony, and as I said, we were fortunate.”
Miami’s Dwyane Wade had 17 points. Chris Bosh scored 13 points, but he was 0-for-4 from 3-point range.
Popovich credited Kawhi Leonard for helping to limit James to 7-of-16 shooting.
“He made him work,” Popovich said. “Nobody is going to stop LeBron James for all the reasons that we all know, but to try to make him work and maybe deny a catch here and there is important. Kawhi did the best job he could.”
NUGGETS: BYE, GEORGE
George Karl’s tenure with Denver is over after 81/2 seasons. The Nuggets ousted him less than a month after he won the NBA’s Coach of the Year award.
Karl is following general manager Masai Ujiri out the door. Ujiri, the league’s executive of the year, recently left to become the Raptors’ GM.
Calls and emails to Karl’s representatives were not returned, but Karl tweeted: “I want to thank Nuggets fans for their support over the past 8 yrs. The karma on the street was incredible. Denver will always be home.”
The former Seattle SuperSonics coach guided the third-youngest team in the NBA to a franchise-record 57 wins, but the Nuggets were bounced from the first round of the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
Karl had a year left on his contract.The Associated Press contributed to this report.