Tim Duncan had a near flawless start to Game 6. He made his first eight shots, pulled down rebounds in traffic, and completely abused Chris Bosh on the block. This propelled San Antonio to an early lead and also established their presence inside the paint. By halftime, he had 25 points and eight rebounds and it looked like he was on pace for another classic Duncan closeout game. However, after he scored five points early in the 3rd quarter, Duncan never scored again. He put up a big doughnut in the points column in the last 18 minutes of the game. Miami struggled to keep up with the Spurs offense when they were pounding it inside, which also enabled the Spurs to get a lot of second chance points. After the Spurs had built their lead, they never really went back to Duncan. Duncan has shown that great things can happen when he has the ball. Tony Parker and Duncan ran a lot of pick and roll in the 4th quarter but Tony Parker failed to execute it. They needed Parker to be a point guard late last night and they didn’t get it. He hit two clutch shots late in the 4th to help the Spurs, but he failed to get Duncan involved in the game. After Parker would call for the pick and roll, Duncan would roll towards the baseline and both defenders would follow Parker. Duncan would be open for 2 seconds and Parker would miss him every time. By the time Parker realized he should have had gotten Duncan the ball, the Heat found time to rotate defenders. Although I give the Heat a lot of credit for raising their defensive intensity in the second half, Tim Duncan did not have enough touches in the second half, especially considering how dominant he was in the first half.
Use your brain Popovich, not your heart
Manu Ginobili is loved by Spurs fans. The body-jerking drives to the lane, the slick Euro-step, the step-back three from the top of the arc. He had a memorable performance in Game 5, helping San Antonio build a 3-2 lead. However, he was downright ABYSMAL in Game 6. It was one of the worst performances I have ever seen out of any one player with the minimum amount of possessions he had handling the ball. He made two to three horrible decisions every quarter. Ginobili had eight (!!) turnovers, most of them being egregious. Bounce passes into double-teams, time-stopping lobs to wide open players, or even throwing directly to the opposition. You’d think Popovich would have benched him but…
Ginobili was on the floor in a majority of the 4th quarter. Popovich trusts him. Popovich loves him. A great coach should put faith in his players and stick to what got him and his team to the stage that they are on. However, there is something that takes greater precedent over that. A great coach should do whatever it takes to win. Popovich knows a lot more about basketball than I do, but if you were a Spurs fan watching Manu Ginobili’s performance prior to the 4th quarter, you’d wanted him as far away from the basketball as possible. When you put faith in your players to persevere through slumps, you expect a payoff. Ginobili looked like he was being paid off by the Miami Heat. Just a horrible, if not confusing performance that might have cost the Spurs a championship.
You saw it coming
Did we NOT see the Miami Heat run coming? When it is all said and done, the Miami Heat will not go down as one of the greatest championship dynasties of all time, if they can even be considered that after winning another championship. They coast way too often, usually needing some sort of motivation to step their game up or needing to be put into a hole in order for them to play to their maximum capabilities. When they do “flip the switch” however, they are unstoppable. Down 13 early in the 4th quarter, LeBron James’ block on Tim Duncan was the signature moment of the Miami run that led to Miami taking a one point lead. LeBron was the catalyst on offense also, making 6 layups, most of them uncontested. Although LeBrons performance in the closing moments of regulation were far from clutch, his triple-double stands out in a game where nobody else on Miami was taking charge offensively. The lineup that was on the floor when the run started was something out of the Stan Van Gundy playbook, except LeBron was playing the role of Dwight Howard. With Wade on the bench hurt after knocking knees with Ginobili, Spoelstra set James up in the high post and on the low block, surrounded by 3-point shooters. James took advantage of the lack of the Spurs sagging into the paint, and once they did try to double-team him, he kicked it out to shooters.
– Why did Popovich bench Duncan late in the game? Because they were down by 3 and needed to go small to defend against the 3. He’s getting heat for his decision now, but the point of the play was to not give up a 3. The players did not execute the intention of his lineup. You can say that if Duncan was on the floor that Miami would not have gotten the offensive rebound, but that’s hindsight 20/20.
– Why did Popovich bench Tony Parker late in the game and not call a timeout on the possession that Manu Ginobili drove into the lane and turned the ball over? In my opinion, Popovich thought Miami would be expecting the Spurs to call a timeout after crossing half-court. Instead, Ginobili accelerated into the lane and it had seemingly worked for a moment until he was stripped of the ball. Did he travel? Did he get fouled? Yes, and yes. It looked like he was fouled before he traveled, however.
– LeBron’s headband is very symbolic after all. Every time LeBron loses his headband, he frantically searches for it, or rushes to readjust it on his head. He looks like an old man who loses his toupee, or a little kid who got a bad haircut and is trying to hide it with a baseball cap. This time, he didn’t care. He stopped worrying about what people thought about his receding hairline and what they thought of his game. Once the headband came off, LeBron went off too. He played with aggression and with a purpose, and that was to assert his will and just play basketball.
– Tony Parker is a great point guard, but he is not the best point guard on the planet. His mid-range jumper has been streaky at best this series, and he has not shown the ability to consistently distribute the ball. He makes clutch shots and is dizzying in the lane, but the Spurs have needed a point guard in many portions of games and he has not been as good of a passer as he has been a scorer. Ginobili couldn’t find his shot, Duncan couldn’t find an attempt, and it would have been nice if Parker could help them get in a groove. Perhaps that was not in the game plan, and maybe his hamstring has been bothering him. However, he was taken off the floor late in the game because of his defense, something that won’t happen to a player like Chris Paul.
– Ray Allen was due for a big moment in these NBA Finals. Another chapter added to his lengthy legacy as a clutch shooter and a habit of making big splashes in big moments. Cold blooded.
Game 7 prediction
None. Just enjoy it. I know I will. I had the Spurs winning the series initially but I am not quite sure if they can recover from this loss. They had it in their hands and they let it slip through. It should be one for the ages.