- Heat vs. Spurs: Series Hub
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — For Tim Duncan, the enduring image of the 2013 NBA Finals will always be the running hook he missed to tie Game 7 with about 50 seconds to play.
“Probably for me,” Duncan said afterward, “Game 7 is always going to haunt me.”
Yet it was Game 6, with the Spurs ahead 3-2 in the series, that will burn in the memories of most San Antonio fans. The Spurs opened the fourth quarter ahead by 10 points. They led by five points with 28.2 seconds to play, a lead they would almost certainly salt away 99 out of 100 times.
Game 6, though, was the 100th time.
“Bad, very bad,” Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. “It’s a tough moment. We were a few seconds away from winning the championship and we let it go.”
The improbable unraveling in those 28.2 seconds as a fifth championship was within their team’s grasp — the inexplicable reversal of fortune that ultimately granted the Heat new life and, eventually, back-to-back championships — will be the moments that churn stomachs in San Antonio for years to come.
“It was by far the best game I’ve ever been a part of,” LeBron James said of the Heat’s 103-100 Game 6 overtime win. “The ups and downs, the roller coaster, the emotions, good and bad throughout 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 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.”
The Set Up
San Antonio was in great shape. It expanded its 50-44 halftime lead and surged ahead 71-58 with 3:50 to go in the third quarter. The Spurs couldn’t bust it wide open — as each team had done in Games 2 through 5 — but they still led 75-65 heading into the fourth quarter.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich started the fourth quarter with both Tony Parker and Duncan on the bench. Miami quickly made headway, shrinking San Antonio’s lead to 80-75 at the 9:32 mark; then 82-80 at 7:08; and tied it 82-82 at 6:34 left. With 6:03 left, Ray Allen’s layup gave Miami an 84-82 lead.
During the next five minutes, San Antonio managed just four points and Miami, with all the momentum, led 89-86 with 1:47 to play. The Spurs called a 20-second timeout — and everything flipped again. Parker stepped back to bury a rare 3-pointer — over James, no less — to tie it at 89-89 with 1:27 to go.
Parker then picked off Mario Chalmers, maneuvered to create a shot in the lane and buried it to give the Spurs the lead, 91-89, with 58 seconds to go.
Spurs 91, Heat 89, 58 seconds to go
James, in the midst of an amazing, 16-point fourth quarter, saw his legacy flash before his eyes. He backed down Parker but, as he rose, the ball slipped out of his hands. The Spurs were off and running the other way. Ginobili was fouled on the breakaway.
He made both free throws for a 93-89 Spurs lead with now just 37.2 seconds to go.
James again tried to make something happen. As he ducked into the lane against Kawhi Leonard, he leaned in and perhaps got caught in no-man’s land. His lob sailed nowhere near the basket and wasn’t close to a teammate.
Ginobili came down with it and was quickly fouled by Allen. Ginobili, having an awful time offensively, missed the first free throw and made the second.
The final 28.2
Spurs 94, Heat 89, 28.2 seconds left
Miami called its final timeout with the Spurs on an 8-0 run in the last minute. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra went to a lineup with five “smalls” that included Chalmers, Wade, Mike Miller, Allen and James. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich countered, bringing in Boris Diaw for Duncan, giving the Spurs a lineup of Parker, Danny Green, Ginobili, Leonard and Diaw.
It was a decision that would be roundly criticized after the game.
Miller inbounded in the frontcourt and got it to James, who had burst open off a screen at the 3-point arc, just left of center. He quickly fired a 3-pointer, but it was way off. It banged off the bottom of the backboard on the right side of the rim.
22.9 seconds left
Three Spurs were in the vicinity for the rebound with Leonard appearing to have the best chance to grab it. But Wade, the lone Heat player in the area, tipped the ball just before Leonard could secure it. The ball popped straight up. Leonard, Ginobili and Diaw all converged, but none could corral it. The ball bounced away toward the Heat bench where Miller flagged it down. He saw James out of the corner of his eye to his left and quickly scooped it to him behind the arc. James instantly rose up as Allen screened Parker. This time James’ 3-pointer dropped and the Spurs’ lead was down to 94-92.
“On an offensive rebound, it’s one of the toughest things in the NBA, to pick up on people,” Popovich said. “They got the rebound, they got it back to [James] and he knocked it down.”
Spurs 94, Heat 92, 20.1 seconds left
James’ 3-pointer forced San Antonio to call its final timeout. Duncan checked back in to inbound the ball in the frontcourt. With the five-second count bearing down, Duncan made a sharp, soccer-style pass to Leonard well above the 3-point arc. He was quickly fouled by Miller, sending the second-year forward to the free-throw line.
19.4 seconds left
The 21-year-old, usually ultra-poised Leonard watched his first attempt spin out to keep the score 94-92. Duncan substituted out again to give the Spurs the same lineup as the last defensive possession against a Heat lineup that this time included the 6-foot-11 Chris Bosh.
“We don’t question those,” Ginobili said, asked after the game about Popovich’s decision to sit Duncan on consecutive defensive possessions. “He’s got a great coaching staff. He’s a great coach. And if he did those things, I’m sure he thought about it and he had many great reasons to do it … When he subbed Timmy, it was probably to switch everything. Believe me, he had many more reasons to make that sub than for any of you to question to him.”
Leonard’s second free-throw attempt went down and the Spurs’ lead was now three, 95-92. Miami, with no timeouts, had to inbound under the Spurs’ basket.
Allen inbounded to Chalmers under light pressure from Parker. Chalmers crossed midcourt and headed left toward the Heat bench. Parker and Leonard switched, with Leonard jumping on Chalmers standing on the 3-point arc near the sideline. A Bosh screen blocked Parker from sticking on James, so Chalmers directed a pass to an open James on the left side. As Parker and Diaw raced to get out to him, James fired a 3-pointer from three feet behind the arc.
Spurs 95, Heat 92, 7.9 seconds left
After setting the screen on Parker, Bosh went unguarded into the lane to follow James 3-point attempt. James’ shot caromed off the right side of the rim and then off the backboard. Bosh, surrounded by three Spurs — Leonard, Green and Ginobili — came down with the ball to give the Heat another second-chance opportunity with Duncan on the bench. James, open at the top of the arc, flailed his arms calling for the ball.
5.2 seconds left
But Bosh didn’t see James. Instead, after corralling the rebound, Bosh saw Allen backpedaling to the right corner and flipped the ball to him.
“If it’s not me taking the shot, I have no problem with Ray taking the shot, man,” James said. “He’s got ice water in his veins. Ray can be 0-for-99 in a game and if he gets an open look late in the game, it’s going down.”
With Parker converging, Allen rose as high as he could and released a shot that had a bit more arc than normal and hit nothing but net.
“CB made some unbelievable plays tonight,” James said of Bosh. “He got the offensive rebound, hit Ray and once Ray got [his] feet down, I [saw] it in the air and I was like, ‘It’s going in. It’s got a chance. It’s going in.’ And he drained it. Just gave us another life.”
For Allen, it was his lone 3-point basket of the game.
“It’s going to be a shot that I remember for a long time,” Allen said. “There [are] a lot of shots that I’ve made in my career, but this will go high up in the ranks because of the situation. Just the way the whole last minute-and-a-half unfolded, it wasn’t looking good for us.”
After a review to see if Allen was behind the arc, which the replay showed he clearly was, the Spurs had a chance to talk over a play even though they didn’t have a timeout.
Heat 95, Spurs 95, 0.6 seconds left
Parker took the inbounds pass from Duncan, who checked back in after the Allen basket. Parker attempted to go coast-to-coast. With James on him, Parker dribbled left of the lane, tried to shake James, but was forced to put up an off-balance jumper from the baseline that wasn’t close as time expired.
Leonard hit the Spurs’ first two shots of the five-minute period as San Antonio took a 99-97 lead. With 2:42 to go, Parker went to the free-throw line looking for a four-point lead. He missed the first — the Spurs went 21-for-28 from the free-throw line overall — and made the second to make it 100-97.
The Spurs never scored again.
The Spurs closed out the overtime by missing four consecutive shots and turning it over three times. With 31.3 seconds left and the Heat with the ball and clinging to the one-point lead, Popovich made another curious substitution. This time he sat Parker, who had been playing with a right hamstring strain throughout the series and was particularly struggling on the this night, finishing 6-for-23 from the floor.
On the Spurs’ next possession, Ginobili drove wildly through the lane, thought he got slapped across the arm — traveling was also a distinct possibility — and ultimately threw it away for his eighth turnover of the game with 2.4 seconds to go.
“I don’t know,” Parker said when asked about Popovich’s substitutions of Duncan in regulation and him in overtime. “Me personally, I trust Pop, whatever decision he makes. I was cramping a little bit at the game, so… But I’ll go with whatever Pop decides.”
Allen made two free throws with 1.9 seconds to go to seal the Miami victory. San Antonio still had Game 7 to win the championship, but they knew their best shot had just gone horribly awry in 28.2 seconds.
“It was a hell of a game. It was a hell of a game,” Popovich said. “It’s a game of mistakes and they ended up on the winning side.”