Originally posted on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 6/20/13
What kind of game can we expect from two all-time greats? (Photo credit) Ok, we got the emotional stuff out of the way yesterday. Now, we’re going straight into the basketball of it all. Did you know this is only the fifth Finals to get a Game 7 since the Pistons and Lakers in ’88? No really, Houston beat the Knicks in ’94, the Spurs beat the Pistons in ’05, the Lakers beat the Celtics in '10, and now we’re here. In other words, this is rare, and based on the players involved, we’re in for a treat. So rather than keep you waiting, we’re just diving straight into "Quinn and Answer." Enjoy. Q: Can the Spurs come back mentally from Game 6? A: Can they? Yes. Will they? Who knows. They all sounded pretty devastated afterwards. Manu Ginobili said “I have no clue how we’re going to be reenergized. I’m devastated.” It’s hard to blame them. They came 28 seconds away from the title before it slipped away. If I were a Spur, I’d probably suck in Game 7. But remember, Gregg Popovich is their coach. This isn’t the Sacramento Kings. If any team can use this as motivation and come out firing in Game 7, it’s the Spurs. They’re either going to race out of the gate looking sharper than ever, or they’re going to come out flat and get run out of the gym. There’s no in between. Also, look at the trajectory of this series. It’s been one giant clusterfu** of randomness. Wouldn’t the perfect culmination of that randomness be the Spurs winning Game 7 after losing Game 6 in the worst way possible? I’m not ruling anything out in that regard; this series has been too unpredictable. Q: Where are the Heat mentally after Game 6? A: Questioning Miami’s mentality is always legitimate, even after a big win. When Chris Bosh said Danny Green wouldn’t be open in Game 6, I thought they were broken. For much of the first three quarters, that’s what it looked like. They seemed more determined to protect their manhood than win a championship. And then the rest of the game happened. People are just assuming Miami will be able to ride that emotional high throughout Game 7. It’s really hard to summon that kind of emotional energy twice in a row. How do we know they aren’t drained? They’re in the same boat as the Spurs: either they’re going to come out shooting or they’re going to come out flat. I wouldn’t be surprised at all with either. Q: Can the Spurs come back from Game 6 physically? A: This is the much more interesting question in my mind. Kawhi Leonard played 46 minutes, Duncan 45, Parker 43, Green 41 and Manu 34. Duncan scored 25 in the first half and looked dead in the second. Manu expended every ounce of his energy in Game 5, and Parker just hasn’t looked as explosive since his injury. You could tell the Spurs were picking their spots early in the series, particularly Duncan. Game 6 was the “leave it all on the court” game. They might not have any energy left, and if they do, it might be gone by halftime. If you think the Spurs can play 48 more minutes with the Heat, you’re banking on a huge Kawhi Leonard game, ditto for Danny Green, and Tony Parker playing like he’s at somewhere around 95%. Duncan and Manu have to be conservative. Any less and the Spurs lose. Q: Are there any historical corollaries involved here? A: Several. First, in Miami’s favor, it’s really hard to beat a great team five times. That’s essentially what the Spurs would have to do because they beat the Heat for 47 minutes last night. They’d also have to outplay them in Miami for the third time. Considering Miami’s 37-4 home record in the regular season, that’ll be pretty damn hard. However, it’s really hard to luck your way into a title. Aside from San Antonio’s choke in Game 6, the Heat were also the beneficiary of injuries to Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Danny Granger, Russell Westbrook and Danilo Gallinari. They also could have been eliminated by the Pacers in six had Frank Vogel left Roy Hibbert in Game 1, and on a bigger scale, the Thunder would have beaten the Heat had they kept James Harden. Now I know the Spurs benefitted from much of the same luck, but at the very least, they’ve had injury problems (Parker’s missed stretch) and issues of their own (age, age, and more age). Factor in the glut of teams ruined in the already weak Eastern Conference and it’s just hard to fathom Miami winning a title in such a weak year when they’ve already struggled so much. History says teams like that will be punished. If you’re looking for one particularly damning stat, it’s this: no home team has ever won Game 6 in the Finals and then lost Game 7. Could Miami be the first? Possibly, it’d be in line with all of the other historical trends they’ve broken. Q: Is the Game 6 stat line sustainable? A: Hell no it isn’t! For all of the big picture storylines, the great comeback, and the amazing shot by Ray Allen, nobody seems to remember that Miami shot 11-19 from long distance and San Antonio was 5-18. If Miami misses one more shot or the Spurs make one, this series is over. The Spurs have lived off of the three in this series. Will Danny Green go 1-7 again? I doubt it. The other major stat pointing in San Antonio’s direction: rebounds. The Spurs only won the rebound battle 45-42 with Miami keeping it close thanks to Bosh (11 rebounds, probably not happening again) and Mike Miller (seven rebounds, definitely not happening again). Meanwhile, only Kawhi Leonard (11) and Duncan (17) did any sort of rebounding for the Spurs. If they get anything out of Tiago Splitter, Boris Diaw, or even the guards, that three rebound difference could hit double digits, giving the Spurs a major edge. Individually, it’s a double-edged sword. The Spurs aren’t getting 25 first half points from Duncan again, but I doubt Tony Parker shoots 6-23 again either. LeBron is a mystery, and otherwise nobody really stood out for Miami besides Mario Chalmers (20 points, 4-5 on threes, sustainable but not likely). Q: How badly does Miami’s crowd suck? A: Really, really, really badly. There isn’t a worse fan base in sports. It’s so bad that Chris Bosh openly told them to watch at home for Game 7. Leaving a Finals game that realistically isn’t over before it’s over is just an inexcusable move by anyone, but for hundreds of fans to do it? Ridiculous. Every stereotype about Heat fans was confirmed last night, including the fact that they're outrageous front runners who begged to be let back in for overtime. Will this affect the game? Probably not, but it warrants mentioning. All we can say for sure is that this game would be very different if it were played in New York, Chicago or Oakland. The crowd won’t be an enormous factor. Q: Who is a bigger liability at this point: Manu Ginobili or Dwyane Wade? A: Both almost lost the game for their team at various points last night. Manu is obviously the worse player. He had one good game in him and he had it in Game 5. Now he’s borderline unplayable. He won’t get benched, but at the very least both he and the rest of his team know that he shouldn’t be asked to do very much. This isn’t the case for Wade, who still seems to think he’s 2006 Wade rather than a role player. Erik Spoelstra doesn’t have the balls to sit him, and LeBron doesn’t have the balls to tell him to get out of the way. If Miami loses Game 7, Dwyane Wade is probably going to be a big reason why. At the very least, though, Wade still has some defense in him. He’s useful if his ego doesn’t get in the way. Manu? Not so much. Q: Will we see any major coaching moves? A: I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Gregg Popovich give even more of Manu’s minutes to Gary Neal. If he thinks Neal or Parker can defend Wade or Mike Miller, he might even start him. Also, Tiago Splitter is such a massive liability at this point (-13 +/- in only eight minutes) that I wouldn’t be surprised to see Popovich leave him out of Game 7 entirely. With Spoelstra, we don’t know what to expect. He yanks minutes around unlike any playoff coach in NBA history. He’s really not much better than Vinny Del Negro in that regard except for the fact that he has better players. Could Birdman be benched again? Could Norris Cole play 20 minutes? Anything is in play, and how well Spoelstra coaches this game is going to be a big indicator towards who will win. Q: Will we see Chris Bosh’s first half defense, second half defense, or a mix both? A: Realistically, it’ll be a mixture. Duncan abused Bosh so easily in the first half that I openly wondered if they’d be better off playing Udonis Haslem. The stats supported it, too: through halftime, Duncan was shooting 63% on Bosh in the series and 42% on everyone else. And then the second half came. Duncan may have run out of gas, Bosh might’ve just started caring more, but either way, Bosh’s defense improved big time. His two big blocks swung the game, and if Miami gets that kind of energy out of him in Game 7, they’ll be nearly impossible to score on. But it’s Chris Bosh. He disappears and reappears seemingly at random with almost no regard for the moment whatsoever. We have no idea what to expect out of him, and if he doesn’t show up, Duncan might be able to replicate some of his awesome first half numbers. Q: Who is the MVP if Miami wins? A: LeBron James. Even with a subpar series, nobody else has stepped up enough to steal it from him unless Wade goes off for 50 in Game 7. Q: Who is the MVP if San Antonio wins? A: Unclear. Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are all in play if the Game 7 chips fall the right way. If Green goes off on another scoring barrage it’s his to lose, same goes for Parker if he takes over down the stretch. If Duncan gets to 30 points, he might win it out of nostalgia, and Leonard has probably been the most valuable Spur wire-to-wire. I’d give it to Leonard even with his missed free throw, but let’s see how Game 7 goes before we make any judgments. Q: What can we expect out of LeBron? A: I have no idea. If you’re banking on LeBron’s elimination game stats, remember that he was nowhere to be found in the first three quarters. If that happens again, with all of the stats pointing to the Spurs playing better in Game 7, the Heat will lose. If you’re looking for indicators of how LeBron has done in the games AFTER his biggest playoff moments, here’s what you should consider: Game 7, 2012 Eastern Conference Finals: 31 points, 9-21 from the field, 12-17 free throws 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block. Game 3, 2009 Eastern Conference Finals: 41 points, 11-28 from the field,, 18-24 free throws, 7 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals, 1 block. Game 6, 2007 Eastern Conference Finals: 20 points, 3-11 from the field, 14-19 free throws, 14 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks. So basically, par for the course with rebounds and assists, but LeBron hasn’t shot well in the games after big, emotional wins. In all three games, he got varying degrees of help from the refs. Maybe LeBron just doesn’t ride the emotion of big wins into the next game. I wouldn’t take any of these games too seriously, as all three came against great defensive teams, but it’s still something worth considering. But if we’re being totally honest, I don’t see a total ass-kicking performance from LeBron like we saw in Game 6 against Boston last year. I think his Game 7 is going to be a mix of Kobe’s in 2010 (6-24 from the field, 11-15 free throws, 15 rebounds, 2 assists) and MJ’s against the Pacers in ’98 (9-25 from the field, 10-15 free throws, 9 rebounds, 8 assists). He’s not going to shoot well, but he’ll gut it out by crashing the boards, getting to the line and getting a bit of help from the refs. All of that being said, everything is in play here. LeBron could score 12 points, he could also score 60. Whatever happens in Game 7, we’re going to remember it as one of the defining games of his legacy. Q: Who wins? A: If my life were on the game, I’d pick the Heat, but since my life isn’t on the game, I’ll say I have no idea. With the way this series has gone, it’s just too hard to say “the Spurs blew their chance in Game 6, they can’t win Game 7.” What I can say is that I think we’ll be able to tell within two or three minutes what kind of game we’re gonna get. If one team gets up early, who knows if the other has enough emotional strength left to mount a comeback. But even if it’s a blowout, I think we’re going to see a game tonight that we’ll remember for a long, long time.  By: Sam Quinn Twitter: @Rhinos_Cry_Too
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