By Craig Fields
What a game. What a game. With so many story lines in this game how can it be decided which ones take precedent over others? In what has to be considered one of the best games in NBA Finals history, we saw a most improbable Heat victory. The entertainment value and drama was so thick and palpable you could have cut it with a knife. This game was an NBA fan’s dream.
The reasons the Spurs lost this game were plentiful. There were, however, a few scapegoats that are not your typical scapegoats. Gregg Popovich, the head coach of the Spurs was, in my opinion, one of the main ones. He sat Tim Duncan and Tony Parker at critical junctures of the game. His best rebounder (Tim Duncan), was riding the pine when the Heat retrieved two critical offensive boards that led to two big made threes in the fourth.
Now although he played a part in the demise of his Spurs, he was not the biggest part of the Spurs collapse. Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard all played big parts in a lost that went down in the history books. The reason, by the way, that this loss was historical is because according to ESPN, in the past 15 NBA seasons, teams up by 5 points with between 20 and 30 seconds to go in a game win said game 98.6 percent of the time. The Spurs are now in that dreaded 1.4 percent.
Tony Parker shot 26 percent from the field and joined Ginobili and Leonard in missing a combined three clutch free-throws at the end of Game 6 that would have clinched the game and NBA Title for the Spurs. Tim Duncan’s productivity through the first three quarters were as brilliant as his fourth quarter was dismal. Ginobili’s decision making was abysmal all evening long, evident by his eight turnovers. In all honesty, this game had to go perfectly wrong in all the right categories for this series to go to a game seven.
Of course, no matter how many mistakes your opponent makes you still have to execute on your end — and did the Heat ever execute. LeBron was a new man in the fourth quarter upon the removal of his signature headband. He scored 16 points and was extremely aggressive going to the basket. He attacked the hoop, not to pass, defer, or merely act as a decoy, but to impose his will and score. In one word, he played like a man who was desperate. He ended the game with a heck of a triple double.
For the Heat to win Game 7 he will need to play like this for the duration of the game. D-Wade’s knee will likely be a hindrance as it has been this entire postseason. With Chris Bosh’s inconsistent jumper, it is unknown what you will get from him. One thing that is for certain is that this game has drama written all over it.
Two story lines that seems to get lost in the shuffle are the play of the Heat point guard Mario Chalmers and the Spurs swing-man Danny Green. Mario Chalmers had an outstanding night scoring 20 points on 7-11 shooting and going 4-5 from the 3-point line.
Danny Green, on the other hand had an anemic performance of 1-7 from the field with only 3 points. He is a dynamic source of long range offense for the Spurs that they can not really afford to lose. Erik Spoelstra made a conscious decision to guard him through a collective team effort with a defensive scheme that was extremely effective. These two players could be the X-factors for their respective teams in the decisive Game 7.
Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili just might need to put on a Herculean effort to get their Championship Rings because for the past two games, the Spurs bench has combined for an ineffective 27 points. Who will show up — turnover prone Ginobili or playmaker Ginobili? The tentative indecisive LeBron in Game 6’s first three quarters or the dominant take no prisoners Lebron in that same game’s fourth quarter. The Danny Green who couldn’t miss a three or the Danny Green that couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.
Tip-off is set for 8pm CST tonight and promises to be a good one.