With 28.2 seconds remaining in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the stage was set for the San Antonio Spurs to claim their fifth NBA championship, as the Spurs had the defending champion Miami Heat on the ropes with a 94-89 lead.
But as LeBron James said after the game Tuesday, there’s a reason basketball is a full 48-minutes and not 47:30 minutes.
“And you know,” said James of his teams 103-100 overtime victory, “that's why you play the game, to the final buzzer. And that's what we did tonight. We gave it everything that we had and more.”
For Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, he sees a successful defensive possession as one in which the opposing team misses and your team secures the rebound. Even if the other team misses, you still have to grab the rebound to actually complete a full defensive possession.
On Thursday, with a 5-point lead in their hands and 28 seconds left, the Spurs failed to follow their coach’s principle.
After Manu Ginobili gave the Spurs that 5-point lead by making one of his two late game free throws, the Heat went down on the other end of the court and James took a contested 3-pointer that he missed. However, the Heat regained the offensive rebound and James connected on his second 3-pointer to cut the Spurs’ lead down 94-92 with 20 seconds remaining.
Kawhi Leonard (22 points, 11 rebounds) would receive the ball and visit the foul line but the young 21-year old couldn’t connect on both free throws and there sat the Spurs with a 2-point lead and 19.4 seconds remaining.
James would take another contested 3-pointer on the other end for the Heat but Chris Bosh would grab the rebound, find Ray Allen in the right corner and Allen would sink the 3-pointer to tie the game at 95 with 05.2 seconds remaining.
Without any timeouts to advance the ball, Tony Parker would run the length of the court and force a shot that had no chance to go in. There were the Spurs, title in their grasps, and they couldn’t close out the Heat because of two defensive stops.
“It was just unfortunate the bounces that we get,” said Tim Duncan after the game, “but that's how basketball goes. They're a very good team over there and they continue to play right down to the wire.”
In overtime, the Spurs and Heat would exchange the lead but with 2.4 seconds remaining and his team trailing the Heat 102-100, Ginobili would turn the ball over for the 8th time of the night and then Allen would make two more free throws to give the Heat the eventual 103-100 score.
As Bosh did in the first regulation with the big rebound in crunch time, he came through again as he blocked a Danny Green desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer.
With the win, the Heat forced a Game 7 at home and according to Allen, who is a past champion, in order to win a title, you need luck, and luck was definitely on Miami’s side with their backs against the wall Tuesday.
“And I've known my whole career sometimes you just get lucky,” said Allen. “When you win championships, it involves a little luck. That right there was luck shining on our side.”
There were a lot of reasons why the Spurs couldn’t close out the Heat in Game 6 that didn’t really involve luck, but mistakes more on their own part.
Ginobili, who was the hero in Game 5, returned to his struggling form in the Finals as he finished the game shooting 2-of-5, scored nine points, only had three assists, and had a career high eight turnovers. The Spurs as a whole had 15 turnovers; Ginobili was responsible for more than half of them. After the game, he knew he had one of his worst games possible.
“I was very insecure‑‑ well, I had a career high in turnovers in a really bad moment,” said Ginobili after the game. “It really helps to make me feel terrible.”
“Even with all that,” continued Ginobili, “we were so close of winning it. So it's one of the many things I'll be thinking tonight.”
The saying, the ‘Spurs go as Parker goes’ had more truthfulness to it again as Tony Parker struggled from the field shooting 6-of-23 from the floor, passing for eight assists, and scoring 19 points.
He had a bright moment late in the fourth quarter as he went on a personal 5-0 run to regain the lead for the Spurs, but in overtime, when his team needed him most, he went 0-for-4 and only scored one point. Although, Parker did mention he was fatigued in overtime.
“I was cramping a little bit at the end of the game,” said Parker.
Aside from the 12 offensive rebounds and 15 turnovers, free throw shooting came back to haunt the Spurs as well in the end. The Spurs left seven points at the free throw line (21-of-28), but four of those misses came in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Duncan, who had a brilliant first half (25 points) and 30-points and 17-rebounds overall, mentioned free throws as a big part of why the team couldn’t close out the game.
“We missed some free throws down the stretch that could have clinched it for us,” said Duncan after the game.
On the Heat side, you have to give them credit for their comeback victory. Down 13 points late in the third quarter and starting the fourth quarter trailing by 10 points, James became that player so many of his critics want him to be: A player who looks absolutely unstoppable when he has that fire in his eye.
James went into what some were calling “Nova” mode in the fourth quarter as he scored 16 of his 32 points in the quarter while finishing with a triple double as he added 11 assists and 10 rebounds.
On a night when Dwayne Wade was struggling (14 points) and looked like he re-aggravated a knee injury, the Heat role players came to James’ aide. Mario Chalmers stayed consistent throughout the game as he scored 20 points, Bosh had a quiet 10 points and 11 rebounds, and all of Allen’s 9 points came in the fourth quarter and overtime.
And as their offense struggled for two quarters, the Heat defense really clamped down on the Spurs in the fourth quarter (20 points) and overtime (5 points). As promised before the game by Bosh, the Heat took away the Spurs’ best 3-point shooter in the series, Green, as Green could only take five attempts from distance and he only made one of them. Green finished 1-of-7 from the floor and only scored three points. The Spurs as a whole shot just 5-of-18 from 3-point range.
Now with the series all knotted up at three games a piece, the Heat are glad they won those 66 games during the regular season to host Game 7 on their home floor.
For the Spurs, they’ll have to regroup both physically and mentally as they still have a chance to win that 5th NBA Championship on Thursday.
“We'll use these 48 hours until the next one to get physically right, get reenergized,” said Duncan. “We'll do what we usually do. We'll watch a little bit of film, and make a couple of little tweaks.”
“Obviously, it's a tough loss,” added Parker. “We had a great opportunity to finish it. But that's basketball. We can show what we're made of and have a great opportunity‑‑ can't forget we have another opportunity on Thursday to try to win a championship.”
And for all those San Antonio fans who are thinking that series is over just because the Spurs failed to close out Game 6, I leave you with the man at the head of the team, Coach Popovich, whose comment about Game 7 ought to remind you he will have his players ready even after a tough loss.
When asked how he’ll get his team ready for Game 7, Popovich gave a “Pop” answer. “Get them on a bus,” said Popovich, “it arrives at the ramp over here, we get off the bus, we get on the court and we play. That's how we get ready.”
I just want to know what Pop was thinking in removing Duncan for Boris Diaw for Miami's last two offensive possessions. Without TD, we fail to secure the rebounds that lead to TWO second chance three pointers! It reminded me of the Pacers taking out Roy Hibbert for a last play in the previous series that made it easier for Lebron to go to the rim and get a last-second win for Miami.
@jaws3 cant blame the coach, it goes on the players they should have knocked down those free throws, especially our hall of fame Manu...oh mr over the hill as i have been calling him...cant blame the coaches or refs on this one
We win as a team and lose as a team. We can't have Manu's game 5 and blame him for game 6. All the errors just add up on all fronts. Tony makes a lucky shot to get even, Manu gets to the line... The ball had to bounce just right for the Heat to win, but we had breaks to get the lead, so... If it is in the cards, we win on Thurs..... Otherwise, a great year by the guys everyone wrote off and now we have 2 tested young players to keep this roll going. It no longer feels like the "window" is anywhere near closing, unless it is Manu we are referring to
@jojo707 Get out of here with that we had a successful season nonsense, we getting excited for the participation ribbion...Spurs loss was due to Manu turnover late and missed free trows
Manu is the reason we lost. Screw the refs, All of manus turnovers were so stupid. That turnover where he drove on the baseline and threw it back inside and threw it right to Lebron. I mean, there wasn't a spur within the vicinity, all Lebron had to do was raise his hands. Manu needs to retire after the finals, win or lose. Unless he becomes Jordan in game 7, I will not forgive him.
I completely agree I lost all respect for Manu after that 2006 WF.....and I wanted to choke him when RC Buford begged him not to play in the international games in 2008 due to his bad ankle and what did he do he played screwing his ankle up more and missing the last part of the season knowing he was our biggest scoring threat.....Man I can go on and on.....I'm tired of Ginobili.....It's gone as far as I won't renew my season tickets until Ginobili is gone I can't take this anymore if we lose tomorrow and Manu has anything less than a game 5 as far as turnovers, he owe us the spurs and his teammates a good game.
Fans call him great Manu needs to prove it......I don't think he deserves to up in the rafters
@jezzyman05 I still don't get why fans act like the spurs future is in that choke artist, he is done...has always made boneheaded plays but this has gone too far...what biz did he have trying to be the hero at the end when we needed ball movement on that heat D...but not that bum trying to put the nail in the coffin when all we needed was to get the clock down, and cause that late run...
@ajd21 thats all i've been saying is manu cant except the role of a role player...he needs to go but he always thinks if the game is on the line he can win the game for us, he cant do that anymore...plus his two missed free throws...
@ajd21 You are damn right about Manu. For all the stupid fans continues to defend him at all cost. He is the one to blame for this loss. He let down TD and TP. 7 TO by himself more than 1/2 the TO of the whole team. The last TO is extremely stupid. No one around where he passed that ball to LBJ. Manu's mentality is crumbled now and need to bench him. Did everybody remember how stupid he fouled Dirk in WF 2006. That cost our trip to Finals. TP and TD don't make those stupid mistakes but him. The refs are going to hell for the last no call on Ray Allen .Manu clearly had a shot to win that game. Listen up in the yahoo sport. Van Gundy and Mike Breen both agreed that was a clear foul. As I told you guys, devil Crawford and David Stern want game 7 and crown Miami.
It is sick feeling all night that I can not even sleep. It burns my gut for Manu poor plays last nigh.
He 'd better his ass off and redeem himself or he will never be consider in my opinion as warrior of the Big Three in SA. Because he's not warrior when called upon.