What a game.
From the better-than-vintage Tim Duncan performance in the first half, to Kawhi Leonard’s thunderous dunk on poor (but at least he tried) Mike Miller, to LeBron losing his famous “not fooling anyone” headband to Mike Miller losing a shoe and STILL nailing a three to Miami seemingly blowing the game in the third to coming back and leading in the fourth to seemingly blowing it again with some vintage crappy LeBron mistakes in the last couple of minutes to the missed calls at the death – while we all know that Manu got hacked by Ray Allen on that drive, we shouldn’t pretend that there weren’t some pretty bad missed calls on the Heat at other times in this game and others – to the Ray Allen DAGGER that tied the game.
I thought that the Spurs had it in the bag, I really did. You can look at my facebook or my twitter accounts. I did not see the Spurs blowing crucial free throws (should have known better on that, they were crappy from the line in game 4) and missing one crucial box out assignment on Chris Bosh before he passed to Allen.
Many Miami Heat fans didn’t see them losing either and took their leave of the game. I’m very much a “stay to the end” sports fan, but I totally get why some of the fans left. They remember Dallas. Seeing another team claim the title on their floor would have been torturous. Six points and a couple of bad LeBron turnovers is usually enough to do for the Heat. If you want the traffic excuse, yes, the traffic at the American Airlines Arena is horrendous – it’s right next to the water and only one road out – Biscayne Boulevard. Of course, finals tickets are not cheap, unless you are some of the fans who left. The lower bowl of NBA games is populated by either long-tenured fans (you can read about Bill Simmons’s Dad in his book and columns) or rich people who are there to be seen, rather than to enjoy the sport.
Those who left and tried to get back in…as if people don’t know that you can’t get back into an arena after you’ve left? “No re-entry” signs are ALL OVER THE PLACE!
What everyone who has never been to a Miami Heat, or an NBA, game need to know is that the real fans are in the upper bowl. This is the only place they can afford to be seated. You rarely see the upper bowl on TV. Some of them may have left early, but by and large these would have been “better” fans than the stereotype.
Gregg Popovich gave an all-time great moody interview post-game, but the question from the only reporters brave enough to kick the Q&A off (an Italian and AN Other) on whether or not the Spurs should have fouled Bosh before he gave Allen that assist was perfectly valid and deserved better than a “we don’t” do that answer. “If they get an offensive board, make sure they get fouled hard and DO NOT get an and-1” seems a pretty legitimate instruction before this sequence. It has been overlooked but the Spurs actually made an illegal substitution after the Allen three – Duncan being brought back in for the final play You’re not allowed to sub during these reviews. Imagine Tony Parker had made that fall away prayer at the buzzer – chaos as the Spurs celebrate. Then the review and the realisation that Timmy had been brought in illegally. No basket. That technical foul could have won the game in regulation for the Heat.
It’s fair to say that Popovich, one of the NBA’s greatest coaches, was not totally on the ball last night. True, he didn’t miss free throws or fail to box out, but he had Duncan off the floor prior to Bosh’s offensive rebound and then Parker off the floor for the final seconds of overtime.
But this is all nitpicking. This was an all-time great game. I’m sure those of you in Ireland and the UK are totally shattered today with the 5am finish. I was in bed by midnight and I’m shattered.
This sets up a compelling Game 7, but one that all neutrals are approaching apprehensively. I’ve said before that the pattern of win-lose-win favours the Spurs after their Game 1 heroics, but their guys played a lot of minutes last night, not least Duncan who gave Chris Bosh more than he could handle all first half long. Bosh was on his way out of Miami at 47:30 last night before coming up with a few huge plays on the offensive glass and at the defensive end. While LeBron played well for the most part, he also had a series of mistakes before hitting a big three that brought the Heat back to within two points.
Dwyane Wade was poor again – he’s -52 for the series, the worst of all players. The Wade-less Heat were rolling until Spoelstra brought him back into the game for Mike Miller and the Spurs went on a 7-2 run and took the lead. For the Spurs, Manu Ginobili’s eight turnovers were crucial, even though he could legitimately claim to have been fouled in the dying seconds of the game, he also missed a big free throw just before this, which would have put the Spurs in a four point lead (maybe more, perhaps the extra cushion would have calmed Kawhi Leonard?). The Heat managed to keep Danny Green quiet, but can they do so again – and do the same to Gary Neal?
I daren’t predict anything for Game 7, but I suggest you make sure you get a look at it. It could well be the last time we see Tim Duncan on a basketball court, regardless of the outcome. If the Spurs prevail, it will almost certainly be the last we see of this particular “big three”.
The final game is on tomorrow, same time, same place.