Before we get started with previewing Game 7, let's go back to the end of Game 6 and figure out what exactly happened.
- LeBron James was absolutely breathtaking in Miami's 4th quarter comeback. He entered another gear that only the greatest players get to use, and it was magical. James put the team on his back for much of the quarter, going 6-10 from the field. Early on when he posted up, nobody could stop him. Kawhi Leonard, who has been fairly successful against James in this series, stood no match as LeBron put his shoulder into him and pounded away inside. When it was Boris Diaw's turn, James would fly by him with amazing quickness. And late, it was LeBron who kept the Heat rally alive, connecting on a three pointer to cut the Spurs lead to two points with 20 seconds left. James was masterful, answering everyone who dared question his greatness. And, although I'm a Spurs fan, I couldn't stop myself from being in awe of his late game heroics.
- At the end of the 4th quarter, Popovich's decision to sit Tim Duncan when the Heat were on offense was...well...interesting. For two offensive possessions in a row, the Heat were able to get a three point shot off of an offensive rebound. Popovich kept Duncan off the floor on those possessions to go with Boris Diaw, who is more equipped to switch on pick-and-rolls and contest three pointers, which the Heat needed at the time. And, with the way San Antonio's perimeter players had been rebounding, most notably Kawhi Leonard, it seemed like a fairly decent strategy to implement. Of course, that backfired when the Spurs were outworked twice in a row for a loose ball, and both times the Heat made them pay by hitting a three pointer with the second chance buckets from LeBron James and Ray Allen. The Spurs played well enough on defense, but, giving the Heat extra shots will come back to bite you. If Duncan were to be on the floor instead of Diaw, there's really no telling what would happen, but thinking of whether Duncan would have been able to get one of those rebounds will remain in Spurs fans heads for a while.
- The decision to keep playing Manu Ginobili in the 4th quarter and overtime is one that puzzled me. He had a bad night all game long, and while his missed shots were bad, his turnovers were even worse. He had 8 total in the game, and had 3 in the final quarter and overtime period (even though one of them was in a last second attempt to get a layup, and he may have gotten fouled by Ray Allen). Ginobili could have been taken replaced by Boris Diaw, who played fairly well all game, and has had a nice series defensively. I know that Pop is going to stick by Manu, and benching a guy like him in crucial situations would be tough (oddly, this is the same problem Miami's coach, Erik Spoelstra, has had with Dwyane Wade), because you never know if he'll make an extraordinary play, but in Game 6 I can't help feeling that Ginobili's risks outweighed the rewards, and he should have been sat.
- The Heat did a spectacular job defensively late in the game, and forced the Spurs to take bad shots. They ratcheted up the intensity, igniting their late game run with turnovers and pushing the ball in transition out of missed shots. They had the Spurs offense shook, as getting Tim Duncan in the post was the best option, and even that generated nothing but inconsistent looks. Tony Parker, guarded late by LeBron James, had to resort to isolating and having to take contested jumpers late in the shot clock, a couple of which were blocked. The Heat's defensive intensity was outstanding, and a huge part of why they were able to come back.
- In the 4th quarter and OT, Chris Bosh stepped up in a big way. He didn't score that much, just a layup early in OT. But, he worked like crazy and made a couple big plays. At the end of the fourth, when the Spurs were up 3, he made a huge rebound over seemingly every other Spur. He then quickly got the ball to not only the best three point shooter on the floor, but arguably the best three point shooter ever in Ray Allen, who tied the game up with a gigantic corner three. And, in OT, with the Heat up three, he protected the win and sealed the victory. San Antonio had the ball on an inbounds with 1.9 seconds left, and had a play for Danny Green to get the ball off a flare screen for three. Bosh quickly recognized the action, and recovered over to Green who was catching and shooting in the corner, and Bosh blocked the shot with his whole hand, never giving the shot a chance. Just another commendable effort from the oft forgotten member of the Heat's "Big 3".
- Late in the game, maybe the biggest bright spot for San Antonio was second year swingman Kawhi Leonard. He seemed relatively unfazed by the pressure of the situation, playing his game and having some key plays. He played well defensively, looked comfortable in transition, and was able to crash the offensive glass and get a big putback on more than one occasion. I know he missed a free throw late, but that wasn't the main reason San Antonio lost; and many other players who went to the line down the stretch bricked some free throws. Leonard showed and proved tonight that his future in this league is bright.
Now let's put Tuesday's game behind us, and hope that there are no repeats in Game 7. Much has been made of how we all expect the Spurs to be ready, and to have put the last game behind them, particularly the story of their late-night team dinner, and how therapeutic it was for them.
To be completely honest with all of you, I have no idea what to expect Thursday night.
One part of me feels like that Game 6 loss was just so debilitating. To be 17 seconds away from an NBA Championship, then not be able to grab that rebound, and have Ray Allen force the overtime? That hurt. To have the Heat continue the comeback in extra time, and have San Antonio's final attempts to take the lead knocked away by Allen and Chris Bosh? Kind of feels like a staggering blow that no one could recover from -- like "0.4" all over again.
But, there's another part of me that feels like if there's any team, any coach, or any team leader that could get refocused; it's the Spurs. Their leaders, the Big 3, have been through this before with "0.4". Although Fisher's shot was a knockout blow, it doesn't mean that this has to be one. Pop, Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili know what not to do in this situation, and that is invaluable. They can show the younger guys how to stay poised, and how to come back from a serious blow.
The Heat will be ready. They've been ready all series. They've handled the media scrutiny. They've handled the rough losses. They've taken their punches in stride without ever giving up. Now it's time for San Antonio to do the same. This is the last game of the NBA season. These are the best two teams in the league. This is all or nothing. This is awesome. This is Game 7.
Heat perspective can be found here: Hot Hot Hoops
Game Prediction: I have no actual prediction for what's going to happen. Either team winning would make sense to me. The only thing I feel I can safely say is that this will either be a nail-biter or a blowout. There's no inbetween. There have been no mediocre performances so far, only great ones and poor ones. That won't change here. Either one team will go down in a blaze of glory, or one will absolutely demolish the other.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.
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