If you fell asleep before the end of this game last night, I feel bad for you. It was one of the best basketball games that has ever been played. The San Antonio Spurs came into Miami with the momentum from a solid victory in game 5 and they looked like they were well on their way to another championship. They outplayed the Heat for the first 3 quarters and all they had to do was play 12 more solid minutes of basketball and the championship was theirs. And then, seemingly in a blink of an eye, someone knocked off Lebron James’ headband and knocked some sense into his head. He flipped that switch that everyone in the world (other than himself apparently) knows he can. He physically took over the game at both ends of the floor and singlehandedly brought his team back from the brink of elimination. I don’t care what Lebron’s final stat line turned out to be though, he did not play well until the 4th quarter. Now, despite his dominating play in the 4th quarter, the Heat still found themselves down 5 points with under 30 seconds to play. While the 2nd to last minute of the game was filled with Heat mistakes, the last minute (and overtime) was filled with Spurs mistakes. And Gregg Popovich deserves the majority of the blame for these blunders. Yes, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard both missed free throws down the stretch, but it was the benching of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker at the most inopportune times that will stick in my mind. For those of you who missed the end of the game let me give you a quick rundown of what I’m talking about. The Spurs were up 4 points with 28 seconds left in regulation and Manu Ginobili was heading to the free throw line. He had the opportunity to put the game nearly out of reach. Instead, he misses the first free throw and makes the second. Then after a Heat timeout, Tim Duncan was left on the bench for Boris Diaw. On the ensuing possession Lebron misses a 3-pointer but Mike Miller grabs the offensive rebound, swings it back out to James, and bang he nails the shot. Would Duncan have gotten that defensive rebound if he was in the game? There is no guarantee, but I would have bet money on it. Now, down 2, the Heat send Kawhi Leonard to the free throw line on a phantom foul by Mike Miller. He follows in Ginobili’s footsteps and proceeds to miss the first and make the second free throw. Inexplicably, Popovich decides to take Duncan out of the game AGAIN. This obviously leads to yet another offensive rebound by the Heat, which in turn leads to the game tying 3-pointer by Ray Allen. Popovich may be one of the greatest coaches of all time, but how do you explain these tactical errors?
Now what occurred immediately following Allen’s monumental 3-pointer is the fact that the game was stopped to review whether the shot was in fact a 3-pointer. No one is talking about this today, and this angers me to a level that I don’t have a word for, and Popovich was pretty livid with the referees as well. As seen in overtime, Popovich likes to take the ball and push it (off makes or misses) in hopes to catch the defense off guard for an easy basket. He will do this no matter the situation, and if the Spurs were able to inbound the ball and push it right away no one knows what could have happened. The game was stopped and while the Spurs did get time to set up a play, so did the Heat’s defense. In turn, the final possession in regulation failed miserably and it was off to overtime we went. I’ll fast forward to the last 31 seconds because that’s where it gets interesting. The Spurs were down by one and Gregg Popovich, for no sane reason, decides to take Tony Parker out of the game. Common sense would dictate, and even the commentators mentioned that Popovich would most likely be bringing Parker back into the game on the next timeout. So, the Heat miss their shot attempt and the Spurs grab the rebound with just under 10 seconds to play. Instead of calling a timeout to bring Parker back in and set up a play, the Spurs decide to push the ball up the floor. Manu Ginobili (who played one of the worst games you’ll ever see) tries to drive the lane against 3 Heat players and gets stripped/fouled and the ball lands in Ray Allen’s hands. Allen is fouled with 1.9 seconds left on the clock and knocks down both free throws (of course). The Spurs then call a timeout to push the ball past half court. With one final effort, Tim Duncan inbounds the ball across the court to Danny Green who is blocked/fouled by Chris Bosh as time expires. The Heat force a game 7 in dramatic fashion, and if it is anything like game 6 it will not disappoint.
The big question at this moment is: how can the Spurs possibly bounce back from a crushing defeat to win game 7 on the road? It is a tough question to answer, but I believe if any team can do it, it would be this years Spurs. They have shown their resiliency in this series, always bouncing right back immediately following a defeat. Tim Duncan will need to use his two greatest inventions to do it though; his time machine and his cloning machine. In order for the Spurs to win game 7, Tim Duncan needs to play like he did back in 2003, and he needs to clone himself from the first half of game 6. Duncan was masterful in the first half, scoring at will and putting on a rebounding clinic. Duncan took Chris Bosh to school last night, dominating him in every aspect of the game. It is so impressive to watch Duncan play at such a high level after so many years, and Chris Bosh is no match for Duncan’s greatness in the low post. The Spurs could also use a slightly better effort from Manu Ginobili if they plan on celebrating on Miami’s home court Thursday night. But the most important task for the Spurs in game 7, is to contain Lebron James. Lebron continues to move from the most important game of his career to the most important game of his career. He should look to take control early as he did in last night’s 4th quarter. However, I’m sure the Spurs would love to see him come out flat again with 9 points in the first half. Think about that, Lebron scored 9 points on 3-12 shooting in the first half. That’s horrible! And while Boris Diaw and Kawhi Leonard deserve all the credit in the world for their defensive job on Lebron, no one should hold him to those kind of numbers, ever.
Game 7 should be another epic chapter in the history of the NBA. Take a nap Thursday afternoon, throw water on your face at halftime, or drink 3 coffees and red bull because you won’t want to miss this game. Tune into game 7 on ABC at 9:00 p.m. to catch all the action. Oh, you want a prediction? How could I forget? I would love for the Spurs to win, but I see the Heat winning a right one; 99-96. I have my fingers crossed right now (yes I’m typing) and I’ll be on the edge of my seat rooting for the Spurs Thursday night, but that’s how I see it going down. Enjoy! Leave your predictions below in the comment section.