The '09 Spurs took Game 6 to even the series with the '99 Spurs at three apiece. If you missed my recap of Game 6, please read it before moving on. Game 7 took place in the Hemisfair Arena in front of a raucous crowd fueled by the electricity produced from this historic matchup. It was clear that both teams knew what was on the line, immortality.
Before the game, a coin was flipped to decide which year’s rules would govern the game. The more physical ’99 team hoped to win the toss so that they could utilize hand-checks to counter the speed of the quicker ’09 team. Before the game, Tony Parker had this to say, “The coin flip will be huge for whichever team wins the flip because it will greatly decide how easily Manu and I will be able to enter the paint.” The lead official for the game, Joey Crawford, tossed the coin.
Unbelievably, the NBA reviewed the Game 6 technical that Current TD received from Joey Crawford for sneezing in his direction and decided that they would stand behind their official. The NBA released the statement, “Given the contagious diseases that exist, we feel that Tim’s sneeze towards Joey Crawford was a malicious attempt to spread the Swine Flu and therefore Crawford will not be punished for his just technical foul. In addition, we feel that Crawford is the best man for tonight’s job and that is why he will be the lead official for Game 7.” When Coach Grizzly Beard Popovich was asked what he thought about this, he spitefully responded, “I’ll do more than sneeze on him if he pulls that kind of stunt again.”
The visiting ’09's Current TD called heads as Crawford flipped the coin; "Heads it is." Tim Duncan gave a quiet fist pump and the game was ready to commence. Both coaches stuck with their starting lineups from Game 6, so Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess and Current TD squared off against Avery Johnson, Sean Elliott, Mario Elie, Young TD and David Robinson.
The first half showcased these truly great teams battle for every point, rebound, and loose ball. Tony Parker followed up his stellar performance in Game 6 with a first half explosion in Game 7 of 15 points and 5 assists. Without the ability to hand-check, Avery Johnson simply could not stay in front of the quicker Parker. Coach 'Clean Shaven' Popovich played Antonio Daniels extended minutes in the first half as his length seemed to at least slow Parker down. For the ’99 team, the Admiral came up huge; he singlehandedly kept them in the game. He posted McDyess up on the block and took Current TD away from the basket so he could use his speed to get to the rim. Robinson missed only one shot in the first half while pouring in 18 points and snatching 7 boards. At the end of the half, the ’09 Spurs led the ’99 Spurs, 48-47.
The third quarter was a bloodbath, literally. Two minutes into the third, Tony Parker had the ball at the top of the key. He used a stutter step to get Avery Johnson off-balance, and then attempted to move past him with a crossover. As Parker made his move, Johnson leaned forward and their heads collided. Parker hit the floor in a heap as Avery walked away, somewhat stunned. Blood poured from a gash on Avery’s nose as his trainer scrambled to stop the bleeding, but with limited success. Minutes passed as Avery was unable to reenter the game and the ‘09ers took advantage. At the end of the third, they led 78-70.
The ’99 team was down, but by no means out of this contest. They put together a run reminiscent of the team that plowed through the ’99 playoffs with a record of 15-2. Spurred by back-to-back threes from Elliott, the ’99 team closed the gap in the blink of an eye to tie the game at 80 with 7 minutes left in the fourth. The game began to get testy as both teams strived toward the finish line. Jerome Kersey and Theo Ratliff were extremely physical with each other underneath.
At the 6:33 mark, Tony Parker stole the ball from Avery Johnson and only had Kersey to beat. Kersey forced Parker to the left sideline and as Parker attempted to streak by, Kersey lowered his shoulder into Parker’s chest. Parker went flying and both benches jumped in anger as tempers flared. Kersey was immediately tossed out of the game. A slow motion replay revealed that Current TD and DeJuan Blair took several steps off the bench towards Kersey before being pulled back by their coaches. In an extremely rare moment of levelheadedness, Crawford assessed both parties technical fouls but did not feel their actions warranted an ejection.
Down the stretch neither team could pull away. Every time the ’99 squad converted a basket, the ‘09ers had an answer. With 56 seconds remaining, the ’99 Spurs were down 97-94 as Avery brought the ball across half court. Avery called a play and passed the ball to Sean Elliot at the left elbow. Young TD attempted to establish post position on the strong side as Robinson made his way to the free throw line to set a back-screen for Avery Johnson. Elliott passed the ball inside to Duncan, who squared up to the basket. Antonio McDyess followed the cutting Avery Johnson into the paint leaving Robinson open at the charity stripe. Duncan made the pass and David connected to make the score 97-96.
On their next possession the ‘09ers committed a rare turnover and the ’99 squad secured the loose ball and got it in the hands of their point guard. Johnson pushed the action and Ginobili was whistled for his sixth foul. Coach 'Grizzly Beard' Popovich called a timeout and after a discussion with his staff, decided to insert Roger Mason Jr.
The ‘99ers had the ball down by 1 with 34 seconds remaining on the left sideline as Sean Elliott was inbounding with Mason defending. Mario Elie flashed to the left corner. Inexplicably, as Elliott passed the ball to Elie, Mason followed to double. Elie passed the ball back to Elliott and he hit the open three. The ’99 crowd exploded as their team led 99-97.
Tony Parker raced the ball up the court and called a timeout with 26 seconds remaining. Coach 'Grizzly Beard' Popovich looked at his team and said, “Alright, here we are. Did anyone think this would be easy? That is a great damn team they have over there and we have a chance to take the lead. This is for immortality.”
Jefferson had the inbounding responsibilities from the right sideline. Players scrambled across the court as Popovich had designed. Tony came streaking to the top of the key but was covered. Tim, seeing the desperation in Jefferson’s face, charged at the ball but failed to create a passing angle. Finally, Jefferson saw a window. He passed the ball along the right sideline to Roger Mason. Defending on the play, Elliott went for the steal but just missed. Mason caught the ball inside the three-point line. Rather than drive in for the tying two-point basket, he took a dribble backwards in an attempt to get behind the three-point line. Elliott recovered but did not anticipate that Mason would move back. They collided as Mason took the shot. The ball hit the bottom of the net as the whistle blew. Foul on Elliott; Mason to the line with a chance to give his team the lead. Coach 'Clean Shaven' Popovich called timeout to ice Mason, but Mason was the one with ice in his veins. He calmly walked to the line, took his dribble, and sunk the biggest free-throw of his life.
Coach 'Clean Shaven' Popovich called another timeout to advance the ball; there were 10 seconds left and his team was down by 1, 100-99. He remained quiet for the first 15 seconds of the timeout, staring at each player, one by one. He looked at David Robinson and said, "Well, David, this is it. You are our captain. I want you to take this shot. Old Grizzly Beard may have more experience than I do, but he doesn't have you. Here's what we're going to do...."
Mario Elie inbounded the ball from the right sideline to Sean Elliott. Elliott took three dribbles into the teeth of the defense until he was just above the free throw line. Young TD was on one block and David was on the other. Robinson muscled his way to Young TD's man and set a screen. Young TD cut to the opposite block but the defense switched so he was not open. David stepped into the man he screened, turned, and sealed him on his back. Elliott saw the window and made the pass. McDyess was on the outside looking in, attempted to foul, but it was too late. Robinson elevated into the air, brought the ball behind his head with both hands, and powered the ball through the net as he let out a roar. Coach 'Grizzly Beard' Popovich immediately called his last 20 second timeout, with 3 seconds remaining and his '09 team down by a point.
Since it was a 20 second timeout, the ball did not advance to half court. The '09 team would have to traverse the length of the court and score in three seconds or accept defeat. Coach 'Grizzly Beard' Popovich told his team, "I know it looks bleak. I know it is improbable. But we will win. Clean Shaven over there, he's got a great team, but there's one thing he doesn't know that I do. This '09 team is the most talented Spurs team to ever play. And therefore, we will win this f***ing game!."
Roger Mason had inbounding responsibilities from under the '99's basket. Current TD and McDyess stood at either end of the free throw line nearest Mason. Parker and Jefferson stood at half court, mirroring their post players' spacing. Essentially, the four formed a rectangle. The '99ers decided to play four feet off each player, but still wanted to slow down any play to the basket. As the official handed the ball to Mason, McDyess sprinted to Current TD's man to set a screen. At the same time, Parker sprinted up court to draw his man away from the basket. Jefferson prepared himself for impact at half court. With his man screened, Current TD took off towards his basket. Jefferson hit Robinson with a screen as David did his best to defend the streaking Current TD. Mason fired a baseball pass down the court. Current TD looked over his shoulder and saw the ball speeding towards him. Jefferson's defender, Elliott, was the only man between TD and the basket. Elliott also saw the pass and decided to make a play on the ball. He stopped his momentum, turned, and leaped into the air as the ball sped towards Current TD. The ball grazed Elliott's outstretched fingertips but was just out of reach. Current TD caught the pass in stride at the three point line, took one dribble, and dunked the ball as the buzzer sounded. The '09 bench exploded with elation onto the court. They jumped all around Current TD as he looked into the stands and screamed, "Number One!' over and over again.
The ’09 Spurs had taken the game and immortality with it, just as our readers predicted. Let’s hope the ’09 Spurs are as good as they are in my imagination.
Ian Mahinmi became a member of 'Club Trillion’ as he posted 1 minute and no impact whatsoever....A bitter Coach 'Clean Shaven' Popovich gave only ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers during his post game press conference. Even to questions like, “How did you feel about Tony Parker’s performance?” "No."....When asked if there would be bad blood between him and Jerome Kersey after the flagrant foul, Tony Parker responded with, “It’s cool, Eva is waiting for me at home. What the hell do I care? In fact, I’ve gotta go.”