The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs started out in the NBA playoffs on April 20. However, the Heat and Spurs don't have plans to leave the NBA playoffs anytime soon -- and likely wouldn't mind meeting each other at the end. But their quests to return to the finals hit early Game 1 snags against the Charlotte Bobcats and Dallas Mavericks, until Miami and San Antonio had much better endings.
The Heat erased an early deficit, had to hold off the Bobcats and then finally put them away in the fourth quarter for a 99-88 win. The Spurs had an even harder time with the Mavericks, as they needed a late 15-0 run and a long Dallas drought to secure a 90-85 victory.
San Antonio has a much more experienced playoff opponent, although Charlotte came to play early in Miami. The Bobcats jumped to an early nine-point lead, yet the Heat were rolling by the second quarter, where it put together a 19-2 run. However, Charlotte quickly erased a halftime deficit, then hung around until Miami could finally pull away in the fourth.
The Heat actually didn't need LeBron James for this, as much of their 18-4 run in the fourth was with James on the bench. Nevertheless, James still chipped in 27 points, with a healthy Dwayne Wade adding 23. While injuries didn't stop Wade in Game 1, they stopped the Bobcats' Al Jefferson, who suffered a strained left plantar fascia that stopped Charlotte's early momentum.
Despite Charlotte's surprising run into the NBA playoffs, it would be a shock if it wins one game over Miami. It won't be a surprise if Dallas puts up a bigger fight against San Antonio, although a Game 1 win would have been a major upset.
The Mavericks seemed poised to pull it off when they went up by 81-71 in the fourth quarter. But like the Heat, the Spurs got their act together just in time. It took a 15-0 run to put the Spurs ahead for good, aided in no small part by the Mavericks nearly going the final seven minutes without a field goal.
The last time the Spurs were in the NBA playoffs, they fell apart in the fourth quarter of Games 6 and 7 of the finals against the Heat. At the least, San Antonio remembered how to close in the postseason, although Miami never forgot.