That one hurt. Badly. The Spurs wasted so many chances to put the Heat away, not to mention a vintage Duncan performance. I'm still processing what happened so don't be shocked if you see me veer into gloominess from optimism, and back again in the course of a single paragraph. I won't tell you to put this one behind us since we don't need to. We are not players so how we deal with this loss won't affect how they do in game seven. But I'm personally going to try and forget this one as soon as I finish this recap.
The Spurs tried to establish Duncan early on, like they do most games. But it was clear from the start that this was not just another game for Duncan. Timmy scored 12 first quarter points and was the Spurs' first option, with Four Downs called early and often, just like the old days. With Ginobili reverting back to less than stellar form and Parker focusing on distributing, Leonard provided the secondary scoring with eight points on only four shots. But with a surprising scoring outburst by Mario Chalmers and some balanced scoring from the starting lineup, the Heat finished the first up two, 27-25.
The Spurs' offense started the second quarter sloppy, with Manu Ginobili rushing shots and passes. That played right into the Heat's strengths. Fortunately, Manu's four turnovers only resulted in three points for the Heat. Miami took a small lead and held it for most of the quarter despite Boris Diaw doing a phenomenal job on Lebron James for the second game in a row. After that slow start by the Spurs, things returned to the way they were in the first quarter. Duncan kept providing steady scoring and the Heat's offense relied on contributions by the role players. But San Antonio‘s defense kept tightening up and the Spurs went on a 11-0 run to finish the half. Going into the break the lead was 50-44, Spurs.
Dwyane Wade didn't start the second half but he checked in soon into the third quarter. Once again, the Heat had balanced scoring while the Spurs seemed to depend on one of their stars to put points on the board. Parker did score nine points but it took him nine shots to get there. Slowly but surely, however, the Spurs built their lead until it reached 12 after a Neal floater with a minute to go in the third.
The Heat quickly cut the deficit down to five in the fourth quarter. Splitter scored two buckets to stop the bleeding but the Heat were not conceding. With Duncan exhausted, James took over with 16 fourth quarter points. That was enough for Miami to score 30 for the quarter and erase the Spurs' lead. The Spurs' offense ran out of gas and the good guys simply hoped the effort from earlier would be enough to win. But the Heat took the lead with 6:03 to go and kept it until Parker tied it with a wild three pointer with the clock running out.
The Spurs regained the momentum and with another Parker jumper seemed well on their way to the title. Ginobili hit a couple of free throws with 37,2 to go after a Heat turnover but missed one of two the next time around. James took a three, missed but then hit one after Miller secured the offensive board. The Spurs were still leading by two and had the ball. The inbound went to Leonard and he was fouled. Kawhi missed one of his two free throws, opening the door for the Heat. After a missed James three, Chris Bosh pulled down the board and found Allen in the corner. The Spurs closed out well but the best three point shooter in NBA history let it fly and tied it to force overtime.
It seemed unlikely for the Spurs to pull this one out in overtime after their stars had spent so much time on the court and the exhaustion was readily apparent. A completely gassed Parker couldn't get going at all, missing all four of his shots and one out of two free throws. But the Spurs have one budding star that is 21 and it was Kawhi Leonardwho kept them alive with four points. Unfortunately, the Heat just had answers on this one and with game hero Ray Allen scoring four on his own, doubled the Spurs' output in the frame. Game seven it is.
- The Spurs could not overcome their terrible guard play. Tim Duncan went off, Boris Diaw played great defense and Kawhi Leonard had a fantastic game on both ends. But when Green, Ginobili, Neal and Parker shoot a combined 11-42 from the field and 4-11 from beyond the arc, the Spurs simply can't win. We knew Green wasn't going to stay historically hot forever, but it sucks he had to miss on this game. Neal was out there for way too long, considering he just doesn't seem to bring anything when his shot is not falling. Parker was the best of the bunch and compensated for his inefficient scoring with great playmaking (eight assists and zero turnovers) and some very clutch shots. I'm confident the Spurs won't get such a bad output from these guys in game seven so that's a reason for optimism.
- If you are wondering why I didn't discuss Manu Ginobili there, it's because his suckitude deserves its own paragraph. Manu reverted back to the worst version of himself. Forget the eight turnovers; those obviously hurt, but the Heat only scored 12 points off Spurs mistakes. Manu simply made questionable decision after questionable decision on both sides of the ball. This is one of the least-Manu games I've seen Manu play and I'll stop talking about it now since it kills me to do it and I'm sure most people will talk about it endlessly until tip off on Thursday.
- Tim Duncan ran out of steam after a fantastic start and it was hard to watch. Duncan destroyed the Heat single-handedly in the first half but only scored five of his 30 in the second. Part of that was the Heat focusing on him more and Bosh doing a good job and part of it was the officials not calling it tight down low. But Duncan at this point can't be expected to play over 40 minutes and still contribute steadily. Again, the good news is Duncan showed he can punish the Heat inside and I'm looking forward to the Spurs involving him early in game seven.
- One of the reasons Duncan had to play so much was because Splitter wasn't particularly effective in his limited minutes. This is not a good match-up for Splitter at all but Pop will have to find a way to use him better, so that Duncan can rest. Or maybe even give DeJuan Blair a try for a couple of minutes since Diaw is too busy guarding James to play center.
- Leonard might not be a star yet but he is probably the best role player in the league right now. That doesn't seem like high praise but I mean it to be. He seldom makes mistakes, plays all-out every time, doesn't need plays called for him to score and is a fantastic and versatile defender. He showed every one of those qualities in this game, scoring 22 points, getting eleven boards and logging three steals. Whenever you start to feel bad about anything Spurs, remember we have this guy and he is only 21.
- The Heat should not have won this game, plain and simple. They had Mario Chalmers leading them in scoring for most of the game, they couldn't run or score off the Spurs' turnovers and their stars had solid but unspectacular games at best. They had a ridiculous outside shooting night, hitting 11 three pointers and a bunch of long jumpers. It's an irregularity, but it can happen. I don't expect them to repeat it in game seven, though.
Alright guys, let's get ready for game seven. We should all remember that fans of every other team would kill to be in our position. The Spurs can absolutely beat the Heat in Miami, even after having their older players on the court for extended minutes. So let's keep the faith and hope for a better performance and some lucky bounces.
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