Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 6/19/13
The San Antonio Spurs were within seconds of clinching the 2013 NBA title — what would’ve been the franchise’s fifth since they drafted Tim Duncan in 1997 – but then, they collapsed. As far as collapses are concerned, it was a respectable one, but the pain hurts all the same. Now, the Miami Heat will take the court for Game 7 this Thursday with both momentum and the NBA odds in their favor. From the missed free throws down the stretch to Duncan’s seizing up and shriveling to obscurity in the second half, the Spurs have plenty of reasons to kick themselves. The series could have been over. Jeff Van Gundy was already complaining about the postgame security. And then Ray Allen hit that time-and-space-bending three-pointer at the end of regulation that prompted every viewer to think, “Wait, this game is going to overtime? How?!” Overtime, of course, was a nightmare in itself for San Antonio fans. Did your NBA betting strategy account for Chris Bosh fancying himself a modern-day Stretch Armstrong, sprawling and altering any field-goal attempt within his comical wingspan? Did anybody’s? According to oddsmakers, the Heat are six-point favorites going into Thursday’s finale — that makes sense, all things considered. In order to fulfill that role and win their second consecutive NBA title, they’ll need to rely more on their own strengths than San Antonio’s weaknesses. That means they must summon the dragon earlier than midway through the fourth quarter when it’s nearly too late, and even if Erik Spoelstra has to scale LeBron James’ Herculean body in the pregame tunnel himself, that headband has to go. Those reservations and inhibitions have to go. When motivated, James is not only the most dominant player on the court in this series, but perhaps ever. On Tuesday night he exercised his 250-pound will on the Spurs down the stretch, showing why Heat supporters have been justifiably betting on the NBA titleholders since their 2012 championship parade. Over the course of the Finals we have yet to see a team win two games in a row, a phenomenon that would put the onus on Miami to reverse the tide. Considering they faced such adversity in Game 6 and still persevered, however, one can’t help but wonder if the spell was broken. LeBron and the Heat saw their playoff lives flash before their eyes and recovered in dramatic fashion. Now the NBA betting world waits to see if they were right to give the Big Three the advantage all along. This article is presented by Bovada.

This article first appeared on NESN.com and was syndicated with permission.

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