Well, I finally did it. After putting off watching Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals all summer long, making excuse after excuse to skip it, I finally watched it from beginning to end the other day. It was just as bad as I figured it would be. Worse, even. I have no idea how you sick freaks made it through this game live.
Here's part I, if you missed it.
[Editor's note: This is a work of fiction. -JRW]
Manu Ginobili: Up 11-4 and they were ice cold... it would've been nice to score a couple more and make them take an early time out, just to make them think about it. A pity.
Tim Duncan: It could've been worse. We weren't playing well at all on offense and were down just two. There wasn't much to analyze or think about, really. I just wanted to get back out there.
Gregg Popovich: We were down just two and really nobody but Battier could throw it into the ocean, but already things were going against us. Tony couldn't really move like he normally can, Manu had two early fouls and nobody else besides Kawhi was doing anything. Our bench wasn't giving us anything, which was a real problem because we can't play five guys 45 minutes. Still, you have to compete and see what happens.
The second period began as the first did, with both teams wasting possessions with sloppy passes and poor, hurried shots. Ginobili picked off an Allen dribble that eventually deflected its way into Splitter's hands, and Green followed on the other end with a rushed, off-balance three, his first attempt from downtown of the night. Wade continued to be ice-cold on any shot beyond 10 feet with a brick from the top of the key, but again rebounding was proving to be an issue for the Spurs without Duncan and Leonard on the floor, and Splitter got called for a loose ball foul. Battier took advantage of a sucked-in Ginobili to can his third triple of the night and the Heat had their biggest lead, 21-16.
Danny Green: We were kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. We knew they were going to drive the ball in against Tiago, and we had to help down there. Plus, they were crashing the boards hard too. You have to pick your poison there and give up something. They had to do the same with us on the other end, too. It's just a matter of making them pay by hitting the shots.
Splitter air-balled a short jump hook attempt over Chris Andersen, but made up for it on the end with a deflection on Wade's careless jump-pass, leading to a break and a Parker layup. It was the first field goal for the Spurs since the 4:18 mark of the first quarter, a span of 5:46. After Neal poked the ball away from Allen from behind, the Spurs quickly got a dunk from Splitter on the roll from Parker and it forced a Spoelstra time out, with the Heat leading 21-20 with 9:55 to go in the period.
Tiago Splitter: After last game I didn't know how Pop would use me. I was not playing very much. I didn't feel very good about my game in the beginning, but I played better early in the second quarter, made some steals on defense and we were doing good. I was surprised he took me out right away. I was more surprised I never played in the game again. I was doing good so I don't understand. Maybe Pop don't trust me yet.
Even though the Spurs had worked their way back into game, this was quickly proving to be a contest where momentum mattered little. Their best hustle sequence of the night preceded their worst, perhaps most frustrating series of the whole game, where the Heat had not one, not two, not three, but four chances to score, following three offensive rebounds - with Duncan back on the floor for Splitter no less - and Miami finally cashed in, on a layup by Chalmers.
Popovich: It took every bit of composure and maturity I had to not call a time-out and just lay into them right there. Twice Wade outworked Danny to the board. It shows you why he's an all-time great, Hall-of-Fame type of player. Even when his knee is bothering him and he can't shoot it a lick, he finds a way to help his team win, so he's like Manu in that sense. Really, those plays were similar to that rebound near the end of Game 6, where he battled with Kawhi and managed to tap it back to Miller who got it to LeBron and... well you know the rest. It was just very frustrating because that was the stretch in the game where LeBron was out, and you really want to make some headway on the scoreboard because he's not going to rest again once he checks back in, and we couldn't do that.
A fired-up Wade destroyed a would-be Parker layup, as the clearly hobbled point guard was moving in, what was for him, slow-motion. He did bait Bosh with a pump-fake to earn two free throws off the in-bounds pass, however, after Green found him on the back cut. Wade, clearly feeling good about himself, stroked an elbow jumper over Green on the other end. Green's attempt to answer with a wild floater was unsuccessful but following a brick from Chalmers on a wide-open three, Parker managed to muscle a short turnaround jumper over Chalmers to again cut the deficit to one.
Tony Parker: I wasn't feeling very good, you know, but I was battling, giving what I could. I was waiting for someone else to get hot. Miami is a good team and they're the champions and they play good defense, but we weren't playing Spurs basketball. We were taking bad shots, quick shots. I can't explain it.
The suddenly red-hot Wade canned another jumper from almost the same spot on the next trip down court, before Parker found Duncan for a running bank shot plus the foul on Bosh, his third of the half. Duncan struck Wade on the side of the head with his off-elbow on the follow-through of a jumpshot, and though it was surely inadvertent, perhaps it would be the lucky break needed to cool him down.
Duncan: With Bosh out I felt we really had a chance to get some things going for me inside - maybe go on a run. To their credit, they did a good job of swarming me and putting bodies on me whatever the case was. Sometimes we reacted well to it; other times we didn't, which was disappointing.
Wade finally missed a turnaround baseline "heat-check" jumper before Duncan turned it over on the other end in what was really a sloppy sequence for the Spurs for the whole 24 seconds of the shot clock. Leonard got a piece of James' short pull-up jumper before another near turnover by Parker prompted a time-out by Popovich.
Popovich: Looking at the film, you don't know whether to laugh or cry. I think I actually asked Bud, [assistant coach Mike Budenholzer, whom the Atlanta Hawks hired to be their new head coach] "Are you sure we're in the Finals?" You're thinking, "They don't pay me enough to put up with this crap," one second, and "I'm stealing money," the next because obviously whatever I'm telling them isn't doing any good. We were sharper than this at Pomona-Pitzer.
Parker had no angle on his layup attempt as James and Andersen both converged on him quickly and James, who had been dormant up to that point countered in transition with a drive and the lay-in, which he got to fall in despite drawing the bump from Green. The free throw made it 30-27, Heat. Duncan missed a turnaround banker on the following possession and Miller, who, similarly to Green had been swishing every three-pointer earlier in the series, just rimmed out another one. The refs missed a bump on Andersen who sent Parker careening out of bounds on another failed lay-up attempt, before James buried a three in Green's face to extend the Heat's lead to six, 33-27. It was quickly turning into a nightmare game for Green, the Cinderella story of the series. Not only could he not make a shot, but seemingly whomever he was guarding was scoring at will on him on the other end.
Green: It just didn't happen for me the last two games, or for us as a team. We had a good year and I had a good year individually, but I think about those last two games a lot and it's something that I have to learn from and it can only make me better and make me stronger.
Fitting for this herky-jerky, scattered, sloppy game, the Spurs ended the Heat run with, of all things, a 28-foot high-arching banked-in prayer by Neal over the outstretched arms of a leaping James, as Neal was oblivious to the expiring shot clock until teammates implored him to shoot. Chalmers answered with a more traditional jumper from the top of the key and Neal, caught by surprise by the Heat's trapping defense, traveled.
Popovich: The game was threatening to get away from us quickly. We had no rhythm on offense at all and it was just getting worse and worse. I brought in Manu and I think he understood he had to take the reins there. He was coming off a bad night in Game 6 and he had made a number of mistakes on both ends of the floor in the first quarter, so I had no idea whether he'd spark a run to get us back in it or if they'd run us out of the building right then and there, but with Manu's track record, I thought the odds were in our favor.
After Chalmers missed another three, Ginobili quickly found Duncan on the pick-and-roll. Duncan hit both free throws after being hacked by Miller, who continued to be frigid from the three-point line with his worst miss yet. Leonard got away with a travel on the other end, but the refs made up for it by swallowing their whistles on two obvious Andersen fouls on Leonard attempts at the rim. Following a scrum on the floor the Heat came up with the ball and Wade buried another elbow jumper.
Leonard: It was a rough game. Refs were letting both teams play, and I had no problems with it. It was a close game the whole way. We just missed too many shots.
Ginobili finally got involved again with an acrobatic layup, corkscrewing around Miller and Andersen, to send the Spurs to a timeout trailing by just three, 37-34. To all the world it looked like a much larger deficit.
Ginobili: To be honest when I looked up [at the scoreboard] I was surprised it was just [a] three [-point margin] because we were playing very badly. None of us could make a shot, we had too many turnovers and both Wade and Battier were making everything for them. I had no idea how it was close and I really didn't care. I just thought, "Let's not waste this opportunity."
Allen, the hero of Game 6, was having a miserable Game 7, and dribbled the ball off his legs into another turnover and compounded the mistake with a loose-ball foul on Duncan. With the Heat in the penalty, the Spurs got two cheap points to make it a one-point game. On the next possession Allen somehow found himself with the ball underneath the basket and made his first good play of the night, finding James wide open in the corner for his second three of the period. Green was awarded two free throws on a shaky call on the next trip, when it appeared that Udonis Haslem, in his cameo appearance in the game, blocked him clean. James finally missed a three on the other end and Leonard swiped his tenth board of the half, handed it off to Ginobili, who raced down the floor and dished it off to Duncan for a lay-up. Just like that, we were tied at 40.
Popovich: Things definitely were trending the right way for us and we were making a little push there, with Manu, Kawhi and Timmy carrying us. The difference was we never had that one big run like we had at the end of the second quarter and the third quarter in Game 6. We never could get away from them. They were shooting the threes to good for us to build any momentum and we weren't shooting them well at all. That's what it came down to. It's a make-or-miss league.
James missed another three and once again Ginobili streaked down the floor, this time choosing to keep the ball and drawing another foul on Haslem, who clearly wasn't a favorite of the refereeing crew. The Spurs had their first lead since being up 15-13 at the 1:15 mark of the first quarter.
Ginobili: I was feeling good, I was sensing that it was my time. My whole career, that has kind of been my specialty --just helping where I can here and there and then, for three minutes at the end of a quarter or a half having the ball in my hands a lot, having that trust and that responsibility from Pop and my teammates, and making things happen.
Wade put a stop to the mini 6-0 Spurs run with a turnaround one-handed fallback push shot over - who else? -Green. An off-the-ball foul on Chalmers against Parker got the Spurs two more easy points, but with Andersen pinning Duncan under the basket no one was left to contest the weak-side rebound of Wade's miss, and James got an easy two over Parker to tie it at 44-44. Green missed his umpteenth running floater of the game and Wade ended the half with one more jumper from his favorite spot on the left wing to send both teams into the locker room with Miami up two, 46-44.