MIAMI – At the very end of the third quarter and for the first eight minutes of the fourth on Tuesday, Dwyane Wade was on the bench and the Miami Heat outscored the San Antonio Spurs 24-9 to turn a 12-point deficit into a three-point lead.
Despite the roll his team was on, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra then went back to Wade. And immediately, the Spurs turned things around, going on a 10-2 run to build their five-point lead that they so painfully blew in the final 28 seconds of regulation.
Maybe the turnaround was just a coincidence, but it’s hard not to see it as a continuation of a trend. Wade is now a minus-52 in The Finals. For the uninitiated, that means that the Heat have been outscored by 52 points in Wade’s 216 minutes on the floor. They’ve been much better, both offensively and defensively, with Wade on the bench and Mike Miller and/or Ray Allen (who are a combined 23-for-34 from 3-point range in the series) in his place.
Wade is obviously banged up. And after Game 6, you can add a left knee injury (which kept him in the locker room as the third quarter started) to his existing right knee injury.
Injured or not, Wade’s presence hurts the Heat’s floor spacing, because the Spurs don’t feel the need to guard him on the perimeter. By contrast, they’ll stay at home on both Allen and Miller, even when LeBron James is coming off a pick.
So it will be interesting to see how Spoelstra divvies up playing time for his three shooting guards in Game 7 on Thursday (9 p.m. ET, ABC). Spoelstra is an admitted stat-head, but said on Wednesday that he doesn’t care about Wade’s plus-minus in the series or that James has been better without his co-star.
“I don’t really give a whole lot to those numbers,” the coach said. “We’re going as far as they take us, along with the other guys. You can’t win this series or the last game with a statistic. You have to compete and win those battles on the court.”
Wade, meanwhile, said that he’s got to do whatever he can to help his team on Thursday.
“There’s one game left,” he said. “Whatever you have inside of you, you muster it up, you give it. So I’ll be fine.”
MIAMI – You can make a rather convincing argument that if any team could not only rebound from a heartbreaking loss in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, but also be the first team in 35 years to win an NBA Finals Game 7 on the road, the San Antonio Spurs might be the perfect team for the task.
Already known for their utilitarian nature, the culture that has helped the Spurs win four titles over the last decade and a half also allows them to compartmentalize losses and poor individual performances and move on. Even when the most recent loss is as memorable as Game 6’s 103-100 overtime loss, when the Spurs somehow allowed a five-point lead with 28 seconds left to play to evaporate.
At practice on Wednesday at the AmericanAirlines Arena, barely 12 hours after the end of Game 6, several Spurs said a late night team dinner was useful in turning the page and looking ahead to Game 7.
“It helped, it did,” Tim Duncan said. “The other option is a bunch of us go back to our rooms and sit there by ourselves and beat yourself up. So it’s always good to be around teammates and kind of get some stuff out in the open. We did exactly that. As I said, we’ll be ready to rock.”
“It was a great dinner,” Tony Parker agreed. “We shared histories and what happened in different games, and sharing stuff like when I was with the (French) national team, when we were up 7 and lost in 35 seconds, the European Championship. You just share those moments and try to see what you can do better and prepare for Game 7.”
If there’s anything we’ve learned about the Spurs, preparation isn’t a problem. The Spurs say they will continue to do what they always do, which is to continue to do what they always do. According to coach Gregg Popovich, fatigue — either mental or physical — won’t be an issue. “That was a tough loss,” Popovich allowed. “But as long as we didn’t play the game at midnight last night or 8 this morning, we ought to have time to recover and be fine.”
Game 6 behind, Game 7 ahead. The Spurs focus on process and await the results that history has shown their methods should provide. While history says they shouldn’t be favored to win Game 7, history simultaneously says the Spurs couldn’t be better positioned.
“We have a lot of guys who’ve been there,” Boris Diaw said. “Timmy, Tony and Manu, they played Game 7s. And even if you were heartbroken after the game yesterday, we know now that the whole season is going to be played in one game, in 48 minutes.”
“We know what we have to do,” Duncan noted. “We know the opportunity we let slip through our fingers. And we’re not going to hang our head and dwell on that.
“We’ve got one more game to win, and that’s all that matters.”
MIAMI – So now there’s a headband to throw into the equation, to factor into LeBron James‘ production and psyche, maybe to mark time against for everything LeBronesque before and after.
Up until that moment in the frantic fourth quarter Tuesday when James went hard to basket and emerged without that sweaty swatch of elasticized terry cloth, the world could only judge him, evaluate him, criticize him and decree his legacy as with the headband.
Now suddenly there was a brand new opportunity. To judge him, evaluate him, criticize him and decree his legacy without the headband.
Ooh, imagine the advanced-analytics possibilities. The re-re-defining of his “clutch” gear, based on his ability to withstand all the previous pressures along with new scrutiny of the man’s unusual on-court look and freshly exposed retreating hairline.
“I’ve never seen him play without his headband that long, since his rookie year,” said teammate Dwyane Wade, a fashion maven known to wear tangerine trousers and man capris.
Inevitably, the statistical breakdowns came: 20 points on 6-of-15 shooting with the headband, 12 points on 5-of-11 without it. Pro-rated out to 36 minutes, James …
It is silly. It is over the top.
It is unfair.
Every game, every quarter, every possession cannot be a referendum on James’ career. Well, OK, it can be, but going that route will only say profound things about the electorate, not the certain Hall of Famer and already all-time great drawing the endless and ever-changing “yeas” and “nays.”
It should have stopped last June, after James and the Miami Heat won the championship that took them – gasp! – two years rather than one. It should have stopped with the Finals MVP trophy he cradled along with the Larry O’Brien Trophy in the post-Game 5 celebration last June.
It surely should have stopped when he and the rest of Team USA took care of Olympic business in London. Or when he led the Heat through their 27-game winning streak this season. Or when he swamped the MVP balloting, snagging his fourth Podoloff.
But no, he is only as good or as bad as whatever particular sample size a critic or an advocate chooses to select. James is judged and surmised and assessed as a work in progress like no other player in NBA history, arguably, the rush to pronouncements and conclusions coming faster than he can complete a round-trip downcourt.
Five points and 28 seconds. It’s all that stood between the San Antonio Spurs and a stunning fifth championship.
Five points and 28 seconds to knock out hero-turned-goat-turned-hero again LeBron James and the Miami Heat on their home floor.
Five points and 28 seconds to immortality for Tim Duncan, who had delivered a masterful Game 6.
Five points and 28 seconds the Spurs might never live down.
San Antonio led 94-89 with 28.2 seconds left and it could have been a six-point bulge had Manu Ginobili not missed the front end of two free throws. From there the Spurs collapsed. Kawhi Leonard missed a free throw with 19.4 seconds left that could have been the clincher. The unflappable coach Gregg Popovich will reflect on some questionable strategic calls in the crunch, such as twice removing Duncan on Heat possessions. And twice, the Heat took advantage with offensive rebounds that led to 3-pointers, first from James to slice the deficit to 94-92 with 20.1 seconds left and then from Ray Allen with 5.2 seconds to go to force overtime.
Five points and 28 seconds that could ultimately define the 2013 NBA Finals.
A look at what went right and what went wrong:
Right: His critics ready to pounce, and in this case rightly so, James came through in the clutch with his team hanging onto life by a thread. Through three quarters, James had three field goals and two turnovers. He had missed nine shots and the Heat trailed 75-65, just 12 minutes away from elimination. Then James turned in a phenomenal fourth quarter with 16 points and a tremendous block of Duncan at the rim. However, there were also the three turnovers, two on consecutive possessions in a 12-second span with less than 40 seconds to play. The Spurs went up five, but the now-headband-less James nailed the crucial 3-pointer with 20.1 seconds to go. He ultimately finished with his second triple-double of The Finals.
Wrong: Was Popovich responsible for James and the Heat catching fire to open the third quarter? On the road, up 10 and 12 minutes away from claiming the title, Popovich opted to start the fourth quarter with Parker and Duncan on the bench and a five-man unit of struggling offensive players: Gary Neal, Danny Green, Manu Ginobili, Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter. Ninety-four seconds later, the Spurs’ 75-65 lead was 77-73 and Miami charging hard. Popovich quickly summoned Leonard off the bench and then Duncan at the 9:23 mark. Parker sat until the 7:35 mark with San Antonio clinging to an 82-79 lead. With a chance to bury the Heat, Popovich chose to rest his two big guns at the same time, a move that backfired.
Right: Prior to Game 6, Chris Bosh said that Spurs sharpshooter Green wouldn’t find much open space to go off from the 3-point arc, where he had made 25-for-38 in the first five games. When Green got free for a wide-open 3 that he buried in the second quarter, there was plenty of sniping at Bosh in the Twitterverse. He’d get the last laugh as Green wouldn’t make another shot from beyond the arc, finishing 1-for-5 from back there and 1-for-7 overall for three points. Meanwhile, Bosh would grab 11 rebounds, including a huge offensive board in the final seconds of regulation that set up Allen’s game-tying 3-pointer. Bosh also blocked Parker’s jumper with 32.3 seconds left in overtime and then he swatted Green’s desperation corner 3 as the final buzzer sounded.
Wrong: The Spurs’ backcourt failed to come through on both ends. Parker, Ginobili, Neal and Green combined to go 11-for-42 from the floor (26.2 percent) and 4-for-14 (28.6 percent) from beyond the arc with 10 turnovers, eight of which were committed by Ginobili. Each made just one 3-pointer and the Spurs’ five from beyond the arc were their fewest of the series. At the other end, Miami point guard Mario Chalmers killed Parker and anyone else guarding him with 20 points. He had 14 points in the first half, which was one more point than Chalmers had managed in the previous three games combined.
Right: Miami shooting guard Mike Millerremarkably recorded his first field goals of the series as a starter. Inserted into the starting lineup for Game 4 after going 9-for-10 from beyond the arc in the first three games, Miller could barely get a shot up as a starter, going 0-for-1 for no points in Games 4 and 5. In Game 6, he hit his first 3-point attempt in the first quarter and finished 2-for-2 from back there and with eight points, seven rebounds and two assists. His biggest contribution was his lone offensive rebound of the game with 22.9 seconds to go in regulation. He split a couple of Spurs and grabbed James’ 3-point miss, got it back out to James on the wing where he nailed his second attempt to cut the Spurs’ lead to 94-92.
Wrong: Manu, Manu, Manu. After his feel-good, 24-point, 10-assist breakout in Game 5, Ginobili reverted to his mostly bumbling ways in this series, low-lighted by eight turnovers, including two critical miscues in overtime. He was horrendous on the offensive end with just nine points and getting of just five shot attempts. He thought he got raked across the arm driving through the lane in the final seconds. No call was made and he could have just as easily been whistled for traveling. The ball popped free and into the arms of Allen, who was fouled and hit the two free throws for the 103-100 lead with 1.9 seconds to go.
Right: The Heat and Allen turned the tables on the Spurs from the 3-point arc, knocking down 11-for-19 while the Spurs went just 5-for-18 — and 18-point differential. Allen, the league’s all-time 3-point leader, has been overshadowed by Green during this series. In Game 5, Green broke Allen’s Finals record for most 3-pointers in a single Finals. Not to be outdone, Allen dropped the game-tying 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds to go and saved the Heat from elimination.
Wrong: After Parker hit a 3-pointer and a little dipsy-do shot in the lane and Ginobili made one of two free throws for a 94-89 lead with 28.2 seconds to go, the Heat (un)faithful started filing out of the building. Maybe for a January game against the Bobcats, but just up-and-leaving in Game 6 of the NBA Finals? No matter how dire the situation, this should never occur. In the words of Charles Barkley, “Turrrrrible!”
MIAMI – There’s no other way to put it: Game 6 was a classic. And in a game like that, so many things, both big and little, determine the outcome.
Ray Allen‘s three at the end of regulation was the biggest shot we’ve seen in a long time, but it was set up by Kawhi Leonard‘s missed free throw, Chris Bosh‘s offensive rebound, and the 168 possessions that preceded those two plays. And it obviously doesn’t mean much if the Heat don’t shut the Spurs down in overtime.
After scoring five points on their first four possessions of the extra period, San Antonio failed to score on their final six. And it was appropriate that Bosh sealed the game by blocking Danny Green‘s three at the buzzer, because it was his defense that was so critical in those final five minutes.
Here’s the Spurs’ sixth possession of OT, in which Bosh hedges to slow down Tony Parker on the initial, double pick-and-roll. He then switches onto Parker and stops him in his tracks after another screen by Tim Duncan, and then challenges Leonard’s shot from the baseline, almost singlehandedly forcing a 24-second violation …
On the next defensive possession, Bosh forces Parker toward the midcourt line on a side pick-and-roll and gets back to deny Duncan in the post. Then Allen helps on Ginobili’s baseline drive and Mario Chalmers is there to deny the baseline pass to Leonard in the corner, forcing Ginobili into one of his eight turnovers …
Upon review of that play, you have to wonder what Parker was doing. As Ginobili went baseline, Parker crossed paths with Green, giving Ginobili one less outlet. With Chalmers rotating toward Leonard, James was in front of both Parker and Green.
You can blame Ginobili for leaving his feet without knowing where he was passing the ball, but Parker didn’t help him out any.
The following defensive possession was another incredible effort by Bosh, switching onto Parker, stopping his penetration, and then recovering to block his step-back jumper …
That kind of effort was typical of Bosh over the last 29 minutes of Game 6. If you’re wondering where Duncan went in the second half on Tuesday, look no further than the guy who was guarding him. In fact, Bosh also deserves some credit for keeping Parker in check in the second half, too.
Bosh was getting schooled by Duncan in the first half. At one point in the second quarter, Bosh asked out of the game just three minutes after he had checked in … and after a couple of Duncan buckets and a turnover of his own.
But after scoring 25 points on 11-for-13 shooting in the first half, Duncan scored four points on 2-for-8 shooting the rest of the night. Parker had 15 points after halftime, but shot just 4-for-17 and only six of those 17 shots came from the paint. As a team, the Spurs scored 50 points on 43 possessions (1.16 per) in the first half and 50 points on 53 possessions (0.94 per) afterward.
Here’s San Antonio’s second possession of the third quarter, in which Bosh denies Duncan twice and hedges on Parker twice …
Two possessions later another post denial and another pick-and-roll hedge, helping force the Spurs into a turnover …
It takes five guys to defend the Spurs, but Bosh was the anchor of the defense that stopped a great offense just enough to pull out the win and keep its season alive. Defending Duncan and containing Parker were two of the evening’s toughest tasks, and one guy took them both on. Bosh’s denial was the biggest reason why Duncan had a quiet second half and his pick-and-roll defense was critical in keeping Parker away from the basket.
In a game of ups, downs, huge shots and brutal mistakes, Bosh played as big a big role as anybody in extending The Finals to Game 7.
On Game 6: Did the Heat take, or did the Spurs give away?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: San Antonio gave that game away. You can’t be the savvy, mature team that gets praise after Game 1 for its poise and then miss free throws, fail on the defensive glass, neglect opponents on switches, have your Hall of Fame big man on the side twice when just one rebound can seal it or even dismiss the strategy of fouling when up three late. The Spurs won a championship and lost a championship all at once and, unless they win it back in Game 7, might be thinking for decades about the one that got away.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Little bit of both. I thought it was mostly a case of two championship caliber teams refusing to give in or give up. The Spurs didn’t roll over when Miami took the lead with two minutes left. Then when the Spurs took a five-point lead with 28 seconds left in regulation and the Heat wouldn’t quit. It’s not always a case of somebody “spitting it up.” Sometimes you just battle and somebody wins.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: . I always answer this question by saying both. Was this a Spurs collapse up by five points with 28 seconds to go? Absolutely. But they’re raising the trophy if the Heat don’t get two offensive rebounds and if LeBron James and Ray Allen don’t make those possession-savers count by both nailing critical 3-pointers to force overtime. So while the Spurs missed two crucial free throws and coach Gregg Popovich made a couple of debatable strategic calls to keep the door open, the Heat took advantage of the opportunities afforded them by making winning plays.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: That game has to be more painful for the Spurs than joyful for the Heat, but the fourth quarter and overtime was more about the way Miami played than the way San Antonio played. The Heat got those rebounds, hit those shots, and it was their defense that shut the Spurs down in the extra period.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: A little bit of both, obviously. LeBron James, Ray Allen, Chris Bosh … the Heat players made plays at the end of regulation and overtime to secure this win. The shots made by both James and Allen were clutch. Bosh’s offensive rebounds were critical. The defensive intensity during the rally and finish into overtime was all about the Heat. But the Spurs were extremely generous. Missed free throws by both Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili and the absence of Tim Duncan (and Tony Parker during a crucial stretch in the fourth quarter) to help secure one of those rebounds that could have kept the Heat from staying alive would certainly have helped the Spurs’ cause. Still, the Heat had to cash in on those opportunities. Give them credit for making the plays the Spurs did not to win this game.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: The Heat won it. Sure the Spurs made mistakes — turnovers, not boxing out — but the story of Game 6 was LeBron losing his headband and the Heat flipping the switch that carried them to the win. Where is that switch and why can’t the Heat keep it in the on position? That’s a bigger question for a different column. The Spurs could have done some things differently, but the Heat played about as well as they could have played down the stretch. That has to count for something.
Pawel Weszka, NBA Africa: Despite Tim Duncan’s loneliness on the offensive end in the first half, the Spurs had looked the better team until the LeBron James show started in the fourth quarter. It looked like the Heat were going to seal it and then Tony Parker woke up with a couple of key and spectacular plays. The Spurs were on the way to their fifth championship again until Ray Allen’s I-can-not-believe-it shot that changed it all. It was the Spurs’ best (last?) chance to clinch the title, but they didn’t take it away. Miami took it. And they are back in the driver’s seat now.
Philipp Dornhegge, NBA Deutschland: I’m not a fan of diminishing a winning team’s accomplishments, but this game was over. With 28 seconds left, fans were streaming toward the doors, the Spurs only needed one more free-throw from Manu or Leonard. And they both missed. Then they failed to foul the Heat before the shot, then they failed to grab a defensive rebound twice. And in the overtime Miami took advantage of two more turnovers by Manu, who played disastrous overall. Allen’s three was epic, though.
Eduardo Schell, NBA Espana: The Opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings, and Miami has too many weapons to close out games (Ray Allen, Wade, LeBron) and potential shot makers like Chalmers, Miller, Bosh or Battier. So you cant say they’re dead at least until two weeks after they’re buried. That being said I do think the Spurs gave it away, and it’s shocking because they’re experienced and well-coached. But you just cant simply let others camp in your paint and grab two crucial rebounds after Diaw enters the game twice in last 28 seconds. Miami showed pride, tons of pride winning this one. And Pops should have gone Euro-style preventing those three’s with fouls. Its the ABC of Eurobasketball.
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Call me a pessimist but I expect an anticlimax and possibly a Miami blowout. My best analogies come from baseball, from the Bill Buckner game in the 1986 World Series and the Chicago Cubs/Steve Bartman game in the 2003 NL playoffs. Both of those were Game 6, both of those packed an emotional wallop on the Red Sox and the Cubs, respectively, both of those were followed by relatively breezy victories, short on tension, for the Mets and the Marlins in Game 7. There wasn’t one particular goat for San Antonio, but the hollow look in Manu Ginboli‘s eyes suggested a game worth two defeats rather than one. Hope I’m wrong, of course.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Another very close, very competitive game that comes down to who makes the shots at crunch time. I picked the Spurs in six. Now they win in seven.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: I expect one team to win the championship. Excuse me for being, um, trite, but who knows what will happen? The logical answer is to say that the Spurs suffered an insurmountable mental and physical blow in losing Game 6 as they did. But these are the resilient Spurs and no team has won two in a row in this series still, and the Heat haven’t won two straight since closing out Chicago in the second round and squeaking out Game 1 of the East finals against Indiana.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I have no idea, really. The Spurs are too good for us to assume that they’re done after the way they lost Game 6. And the Heat have obviously been a model of inconsistency, particularly on defense, for the last month. Anything can happen.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Complete chaos, pandemonium and a game worthy of the epic nature this series has taken on since Game 4 would be nice. Even though we’ve seen some blowouts, the drama has been at an all-time high in this series. I expect Game 7 to live up to that hype, at least in the sense of these two teams going toe-to-toe one last time to decide this thing. Game 1 was an ideal start, with a big shot from Tony Parker being the difference for the Spurs. An encore of Game 1 and Game 6 is the only fitting way for this series to end. I’ll even take another overtime thriller. The last Game 7 we saw in The Finals (Lakers-Celtics 2010) should serve as the ideal template for two battled-tested championship-caliber teams who dug into their reserves to muster the energy for an epic finish to a great series. We got great drama, a wild finish and the better team outlasting a game challenger. You can’t ask for anything more in the last and most important game of the 2012-13 season. And I suspect we’ll get something along those lines from the Heat and Spurs.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: It’s going to be nearly impossible to top Game 6. I was there in the press box as the game tightened down the stretch, and my ears were ringing afterward. Game 6 had storylines for days, and tension and so many head-shaking moments, that I don’t know how Game 7 will best that.
Adriano Albuquerque, NBA Brasil: After such an emotional and draining Game 6, obviously I expect the Spurs to be tired and showing their age. I expect the Heat to be pumped-up and full of swagger. I expect a game more like Games 2 through 5, when a team broke open the game in the third quarter and held on to win. And I expect to be wrong on every single one of those — again. This series has had so many “Forever is BIG” moments, that the only thing I really expect is one more of those.
Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA Greece: I expect the same mentality from LeBron James: the MVP will decide the game. Either he will lose it, or he will win it, as he tried to do in the last plays of the game, when he took all the shots for Miami. In Game 6 Ray Allen gave him a big help with that three from the corner and now it’s LBJ’s time to shine. I also expect the Spurs to be disappointed by the way the lost the previous game and I strongly believe that if the Heat take the early lead, they will blow them out.
Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: I expect the Heat to win with a double digit margin. The Spurs were so close that the ring were already forged. But the Heat showed some pride and took Game 6: they have the momentum now and I expect a big game from LeBron (with his headband on).
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Standing pat means going backward in the NBA of 2013. Everyone else will be striving to improve, and the Heat have flaws and areas to address. Granted, Miami doesn’t have a lot of roster decision within its control – Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis and James Jones hold options for next year – but Mike Miller should get amnestied to free up what they can for maneuverability and Mario Chalmers clearly is worth the team option of $4 million. Trades? Can’t see the Big Three getting broken up if the Heat wins again. Can’t see rival GMs in any hurry to help Miami out, either.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: With the core, yes. There will always be tweaks to be made around the edges with the supporting cast. That’s the way this model was constructed. I might be in the minority here, but I believe that even if the Heat lose, they should keep LeBron, Wade and Bosh together. They will have been to three Finals in a row and won once. Has everyone forgotten that the Celtics dynasty of the 1980s never won back-to-back? And nobody ever dreamed of breaking up Bird, McHale and Parish. The Lakers won three titles fro 1980 to 1985 and never took two in a row. There was no uproar to dump Magic or Kareem. All of this rush to break the Heat up is a product of our rush-to-judgment, instant gratification, often foolish times. If we’re picking the 2014 Finals right now, I’m taking the Heat, as is, out of the East.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Of course not. They have been exposed and must get bigger and stronger inside. Chris Bosh is just never going to be that guy. The issue for Miami is how to find frontline help with limited financial flexibility to tweak the roster.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The collective bargaining agreement and the salaries of their three stars will determine the future of their roster more than the result of Game 7. Putting the money aspect aside (to a point – they’re not adding Dwight Howard this summer), they’re in as good a shape as any team in the league. It’s hard not to see them back here next season.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Win or lose, the Heat have some serious holes to fill on their roster. The biggest is the presence of a true low-post difference maker, someone who allows Chris Bosh to stray on the perimeter periodically and not hurt this team by doing so. The Indiana Pacers exposed the Heat’s tender side and you better believe there will be plenty of teams that plan on attacking them there in the future. Trading Chris Bosh is something the Heat have to consider if they can acquire a couple of younger pieces, one being a center or power forward capable of being the Heat’s No. 1 option in the post. Pat Riley can’t be emotional about what needs to be done, and his track record tells us that he won’t be. There has to be a roster upgrade in several spots in order for the Heat to fortify themselves for the challenges that await in the 2013-14 season.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I suppose you can make an argument that they will see some improvement from younger players like Norris Cole and … well, he’s about the only young guy in the rotation. Playing smallball solves the problem of trying to find a 5, as they’ve auditioned players the last few seasons in that role. If anything they need consistency from a health standpoint, because guys like Mike Miller and Ray Allen ain’t getting any younger.
Karan Madhok, NBA India: Yes. And they should stand pat with their roster if they lose, too. If there’s anything that Miami should learn from their Finals’ opponent San Antonio, is that familiarity breeds success. The Spurs have been together for over a decade and continue to over-achieve every season. Miami won 66 games this season after all, revolutionized small ball, and went on a 27-game winning streak. So it’s true that they’ve had trouble in the last two series, but this is still a team composed of some of the world’s greatest players. They should make small upgrades to replace aging players, but win or lose, they should strive to keep their core together for as long as possible.
Hanson Guan, NBA China: Regardless of what will happen in Game 7, I think the Heat need tinkering more than overhauling. Compared to two seasons ago when the Big Three began to work together, LeBron James is now more grown-up and versatile, although both Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are on the decline. However, this doesn’t require a major change. The battles in the series exposed the weak parts of Heat, though; they should imrpove their interior, and they need a player like Omer Asik.
LeBron James notched a triple-double and Ray Allen hit a clutch trey to force overtime as the Heat staged an improbable rally to win Game 6 103-100 on Tuesday night. Here’s a quick recap of NBA.com’s complete Game 6 coverage.
MIAMI – The yellow rope had been arranged carefully around the perimeter of the court at AmericanAirlines Arena. Less than a minute remained and the San Antonio Spurs were up by five points, so out of necessity, the logistics and security of their trophy presentation were underway.
In moments, that rope would be pulled high and tight, sealing the court like the something velvet separating the unwashed from South Beach’s swankiest. The Larry O’Brien trophy would be hustled onto the floor as most of the Miami Heat fans who hadn’t already left found the exits. Celtics legend Bill Russell would amble onto the floor, too, to hand off the eponymous hardware given to The Finals MVP.
Then and there, that figured to be Tim Duncan, who, hmm, just happened to have checked out of the game with 28.2 seconds left, his side up 94-89.
So steady and fundamentally sound, the Spurs failed not once, but twice, at one of the game’s essential skills. Maybe you’ve heard of it: No rebounds, no rings. Plenty of nightmares, though.
And the Miami Heat, just seconds from elimination in six games and an endless summer of second-guessing and rebuke, were revived. Alive. And finally in control again, their 103-100 overtime victory tucked away along with momentum what’s left of the 2013 Finals and the home court for Game 7.
As for LeBron James, the lightning rod for so much criticism and praise and everything in between, he’s not letting people write him or his team off quite yet. In the fourth quarter and overtime, he had 18 points, four rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block (of Duncan) in capping another triple-double. He shot 8-for-14, threw off one headband, went from hero to goat and back again several times over and summarized the whole evening better than those actually charged with doing so.
“It was by far the best game I’ve ever been a part of,” a thoroughly relaxed (and relieved?) James told reporters after midnight. “The ups and downs, the roller coaster, the emotions, good and bad through the whole game. To be a part of something like this is something you would never be able to recreate once you’re done playing the game.
“I’m blessed to be a part of something like this. And I’m happy about the way we dug down and were able to get a win it didn’t look like we could muster up at some point in the game.”