2013 NBA Finals: Spurs-Heat

NBA Won’t Allow Celtics-Clippers Deal



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The Los Angeles Clippers and Boston Celtics don’t have to worry about finalizing their on-again, off-again trade for Celtics star Kevin Garnett and coach Doc Rivers.

NBA rules won’t allow it, so for the second time in three days, this proposed deal is dead.

Both sides were reportedly informed days ago that the league would not sanction such a deal, per Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, and NBA Commissioner David Stern has weighed in as well:

In a radio tour in the hours before Game 7 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, commissioner Stern appeared on several programs and put this saga out of its misery. His strongest comments came on ESPN Radio in New York, where Stern said, “The teams are aware that the collective bargaining agreement doesn’t authorize trades involving coaches’ contracts.”

The only incentives other than player contracts that are permitted in NBA trades, Stern said, are draft picks and cash.

“The teams know that,” Stern said. “It has been confirmed to them. … It can’t be gotten around by breaking it up into two transactions.”

Stern said — and a person familiar with the communication between the league and the teams confirmed — that there is no separating the two deals at this point because it is obvious all the pieces are part of the same negotiation.

“If you think those, at this point — having been all over the media for the last week — are separate transactions … I have a bridge that I would very much enjoy selling to you,” Stern said.

Stern’s words make it clear that it’s time to throw dirt on this deal and bury it under fantasy basketball trade scenarios that will never see the light of day.

And the league’s concerns are valid. Since when can coaches, whose salaries and true value cannot be adequately gauged or accounted for under the collective bargaining agreement, become a part of a negotiated trade?

It remains unclear whether Rivers and Celtics boss Danny Ainge have come to an understanding about a mutual parting of the ways. Reports out of Boston had them meeting Wednesday evening and possibly today to discuss the future of the franchise and the rebuilding process that could be on the horizon and what role Rivers would play, if any, in that reboot.

Meanwhile, the Clippers have kept their coaching search going (reportedly narrowing things down to Pacers assistant Brian Shaw and former Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins in recent days) through all of the rumors about Rivers joining them to coach not only Garnett but prized free agent Chris Paul.

Where this drama goes next is anyone’s guess. But the Commissioner has made it clear to all involved that the rumored deal, in whatever form it’s in right now, will not pass league muster.

Heat Try To ‘Stay In The Moment’

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MIAMI – Game 7 of The Finals is not just any other game, but the Miami Heat are trying to treat it that way. They want to “stay in the moment” but not get caught up in it, if that makes any sense.

So Heat coach Erik Spoelstra did nothing special at Thursday morning’s shootaround. There was no talk about the consequences of winning or losing Game 7 (9 p.m. ET, ABC).

“You can’t focus on the victory,” Spoelstra said. “You can’t focus on the reward. The only thing you can focus on is the task. So this morning, all it was was the shootaround, prep. It wasn’t anything more. There was no special words or speeches I gave them. The most important thing they can do now for the next eight or 10 hours is get off their feet.”

Spoelstra believes his team is prepared to stay undistracted and focus on the task at hand, because they’ve dealt with quite a bit of outside noise since putting together the big three three years ago.

“Probably the world we’ve lived in has helped us prepare for that more than anything else,” Spoelstra said. “From the first time we came together, it was about everything else. And we had to learn how to compartmentalize and stay in the moment. That’s helped us build some discipline of mind.”

And Chris Bosh doesn’t want to think about what the next 48 minutes of basketball mean to the big three’s legacy.

“We’re not thinking about the grand scheme of things,” Bosh said. “All this legacy stuff and the era, we leave that all to the barber shop talkers and the sports critics and let everybody sum that up. We just come out there and play basketball.”

***

Spoelstra hinted that Udonis Haslem would see action in Game 7 after giving Haslem a DNP in favor of Chris Andersen and small lineups on Tuesday.

“It was probably one of the tougher things I’ve ever done. That wasn’t necessarily the notion. The game just didn’t present itself. But he’ll be ready and the opportunity will be there tonight. He’s right there on my mind, so likely he’ll get his chance tonight.”

Game 7 Often Produces High Drama

MIAMI – Game 7 of The Finals is the ultimate basketball experience for both players and fans. One game for everything. And it often lives up to the moment.

The San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat will play the 18th Game 7 in Finals history on Thursday (9 p.m. ET, ABC), the last since the Los Angeles Lakers edged the Boston Celtics in 2010. That one went down to the final minute, as have many others. In fact, 12 of the 17 previous Finals Game 7s, including each of the last four, have been decided by seven points or less. They have featured some wild comebacks and several scary moments for the eventual champions.

The home team has won 14 of the 17, but we can’t forget that the Celtics had a three-point lead midway through the fourth quarter of that Game 7 three years ago. In 2005, the Spurs and Detroit Pistons were tied with 12 minutes to play.

That was the only Finals Game 7 the Spurs have played. Neither the Heat nor LeBron James have ever played in a Finals Game 7. Pat Riley has been there multiple times, however.

Here’s a look back at the five best Finals Game 7s of all-time, along with a full list below.

And for a complete history of Game 7s, check out NBA.com/Stats.

5. 1955 – Nationals 92, Pistons 91


The Nats trailed by as many as 17 points in the second quarter. Fortunately though, the league instituted the 24-second shot clock, invented by their owner Danny Biasone, that season. That allowed them to come all the way back and George King hit one of two free throws with 12 seconds left to give them a one-point lead. He then stole the ball from Ft. Wayne’s Andy Phillip to seal the championship.

4. 1988 – Lakers 108, Pistons 105


Up 3-2, the Pistons lost Game 6 similarly to how the Spurs lost Game 6 on Tuesday. They had a three-point lead with a minute to go and the championship trophy was ready in their locker room. But a Byron Scott jumper and two Kareem Abdul-Jabbar free throws pushed the series to Game 7.

With Isiah Thomas limping around on a bad ankle, the Lakers built a 15-point lead early in the fourth quarter of Game 7. But the Pistons came back to within two with just over a minute to go. They were down one with six seconds left, but A.C. Green broke away from the pack to make it a three-point game again and, as the crowd began to storm the floor, Thomas couldn’t get a game-tying three off.

3. 1969 – Celtics 108, Lakers 106


With Jack Kent Cooke‘s balloons up in the Forum rafters, the Lakers trailed by 17 early in the fourth quarter and lost Wilt Chamberlain to an injury midway through the period. But Jerry West led them back within a point. With just over a minute left, the Lakers’ Keith Erickson stripped John Havlicek, but the ball went straight to Don Nelson, who launched a jumper that hit the back of the rim, bounced high in the air, and dropped through the net.

It was Bill Russell‘s 11th and final championship and the first time the road team had won Game 7 of The Finals. West, the only Finals MVP from a losing team, finished with 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists in the deciding game.

2. 1962 – Celtics 110, Lakers 107 (OT)


There’s no better way to cap a great series featuring multiple Hall of Famers than with an overtime in Game 7. It wouldn’t have gone to OT, however, if the Lakers’ Frank Selvy hit the eight-foot, baseline jumper at the end of regulation.

He didn’t and the Celtics built a five-point lead in overtime before holding on for their fifth championship and fourth on their run of eight straight. Elgin Baylor led all scorers with 41 points, while Russell registered 30 points and 40 rebounds for Boston.

Each of the final five games of the series was determined by five points or less. Here’s video of West winning Game 3 with a steal and layup in the final three seconds.

1. 1957 – Celtics 125, Hawks 123 (2OT)


Two overtimes for the NBA title? Yes, please. The Hawks tied the game in the final seconds of regulation with two Bob Pettit free throws and in the final seconds of overtime with a Jack Coleman jumper. With his team down two again at the end of the second OT, St. Louis’ Alex Hannum purposely threw a full-court pass off the backboard to Pettit, but the Hall of Famer couldn’t convert and the Celtics won their first of 17 championships.

Boston rookies Russell and Tommy Heinsohn combined for 56 points and 55 rebounds.

Finals Game 7s

Year Home H Pts Away A Pts Margin Video
1951 Rochester 79 New York 75 4
1952 Minneapolis 82 New York 65 17
1954 Minneapolis 87 Syracuse 80 7 1954 Lakers
1955 Syracuse 92 Fort Wayne 91 1 Dolph Schayes: The Evolution of the Game
1957** Boston 125 St. Louis 123 2 1957 Celtics
1960 Boston 122 St. Louis 103 19
1962* Boston 110 L.A. Lakers 107 3 1962 NBA Finals
1966 Boston 95 L.A. Lakers 93 2 1966 NBA Finals
1969 L.A. Lakers 106 Boston 108 2 1969 Game 7
1970 New York 113 L.A. Lakers 99 14 1970: Willis Reed
1974 Milwaukee 87 Boston 102 15
1978 Seattle 99 Washington 105 6 1978 Game 7
1984 Boston 111 L.A. Lakers 102 9 1984 Game 7
1988 L.A. Lakers 108 Detroit 105 3 Big Game James
1994 Houston 90 New York 84 6 1994 Game 7
2005 San Antonio 81 Detroit 74 7 2005 Game 7
2010 L.A. Lakers 83 Boston 79 4 Game 7 Mini-Movie

* Overtime
** Double-overtime

Legacies Truly On The Line In Game 7





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – A champion will be crowned after the dust has settled on tonight’s winner-take-all Game 7 of The Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Legacies also are on the line for the coaches and main players on both sides. Heat star and four-time MVP LeBron James might have the most riding on the outcome of this game, but he’s certainly not the only one with a reputation to continue building.

The basics:
Game 7 tips off Thursday night at 9 ET on ABC.

The Heat have plenty of numbers on their side, courtesy of home-court advantage. The home team is 14-3 in Games 7s in Finals history, the last road team to win was Washington over Seattle in 1978. They need whatever they can get after coming within seconds of not even making it to a Game 7, trailing by five points with 28 seconds to play in regulation of Game 6 before Ray Allen forced overtime with a clutch 3-pointer from the corner. The Heat are trying to repeat as champions, becoming the first team since the Los Angeles Lakers did it in 2009 and 2010. That 2010 title was secured with a Game 7 win over Allen and the Boston Celtics at Staples Center.

The Spurs are attempting to become just the fourth team to win a Finals Game 7 on the road. And they’ll have to shake off the stench of blowing their chance to capture the Larry O’Brien trophy in Game 6. The trophy was being wheeled out to the court for the championship ceremony as the Spurs fumbled away their lead in the final seconds. The Spurs are chasing title No. 5, for Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich, No. 4 for Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. So they are playing the legacy game, too.

The Heat haven’t won back-to-back games since the end of the conference semifinals and Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, while the Spurs haven’t lost back-to-back games with their Big 3 in the lineup since December. Something has to give tonight.

The narrative:
James, headband free, had to dig down in his deep reserves to find the energy to change the tempo in Game 6 and the put the Heat in a position to even have a chance to come back. So what does he have left for Game 7 with so much at stake? It needs to be a lot, because Dwyane Wade is operating on two busted knees and could be limited in Game 7 the way he was in Game 6. Chris Bosh came through with some clutch rebounds and a block at the end of Game 6, but he also has to play much better. The Heat need their Big 3 to show up again the way they did in Game 4, when they combined for 85 points, 30 rebounds, 10 steals, nine assists and five blocks.

Role players from each side have stepped up tremendously throughout the first six games of this series, but Game 7 is about the superstars showing up and assuming their designed roles. If the Spurs get another 30-point, 17-rebound effort out of Duncan and Parker shoots it better than he did in Game 6 and Ginobili cuts his turnovers in half and produces like he did in Game 5, the Spurs’ Big 3 will have done their part.

And that leaves the always important wild card position open for Allen or Mike Miller for the Heat and for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green for the Spurs. If any one of those guys goes off the grid and plays out of his mind in this setting, he could swing the momentum of this game in his team’s favor.

The subplots:
Popovich took a beating for his late-game rotations that did not include, for at least a stretch of the fourth quarter, Duncan and Parker on the floor with the Spurs trying to hold a lead. He didn’t take a timeout with seconds to play, allowing Ginobili to dribble the ball up the court at a critical time while Parker sat on the bench. And when the Spurs needed to rebound the ball in those final 28 seconds, Duncan was not on the floor as the Heat scrambled to tie the game. Not that he cares, but all eyes will be on him if things are tight down the stretch.

So much has been made about the Spurs’ mental and emotional recovery from Game 6, which was aided by a late-night,  clear-the-air team dinner and the realization that they have one more chance to finish what they started in Game 6. But what about the emotional recovery for a Heat team that was floored by the reality that they were seconds away from watching a team celebrate a championship on their home floor for the second time in three years? They have to come back to earth after that game as well.

Finally, and perhaps most important, is what Heat coach Erik Spoelstra decides to do if Wade clearly doesn’t have the bounce and energy needed to impact the game in the way we’ve seen him do it earlier in this series? The Heat’s fourth-quarter rally in Game 6 came with James attacking the rim with sharpshooters Allen and Miller spreading the floor and the Spurs’ defense out. With Wade on the floor James doesn’t have the same room to operate and the Spurs can pack the lane. Spoelstra might have to make a choice between benching Wade and trying to do the impossible with him on the floor.

Xs and Os:
There will be plenty of opportunities for both coaches to tweak their teams in this game, but only once the action starts. After six games against each other, there are no surprises left. All of the punching and counterpunching we’ve seen — from the altered starting lineups and the insertion of certain role players at ideal times in the series — Game 7 should not come down to a modification from either Popovich or Spoelstra.

This is a game that the players will decide with their energy, effort and execution of the same game plans that have been in place since the start of Game 1.

The Spurs want to play at their pace, keep the Heat off-balance in transition and impose their will inside with Duncan and make sure Parker is attacking and his shooters are in place to take advantage of the inside-out game when the Spurs pick-and-roll game is in a groove.

The Heat want to play at their breakneck pace, with James and Wade in attack mode and the floor spread just enough to keep those driving lanes open and keep the Spurs guessing about where the next strike is coming from. And if Spoelstra is determined to stick with Wade and James on the floor together, one of them has to be prepared to play in the post to keep the floor spaced properly.

Who’s hot?
Allen scored just nine points in Game 6, but all nine of them came in the fourth quarter and overtime, the most critical times in the game for the Heat. Experienced in the clutch, he has more Game 7 minutes on his resume, by far, than anyone else in this game.

He’s been in the Spurs’ shoes before, trying to win a Game 7 on the road, and that experience will serve him and the Heat well in an environment that should be as wild as anything we’ve seen in the NBA this season.

“As a competitor you love it, because you know you have an opportunity and it’s up to you,” Allen said. “We have a chance in our building to make something great. All of our legacies are tied to this moment, this game. It’s something our kids will be able to talk about that they were a part of. Forever will remember these moments, so we want to not live and have any regrets.”

Whatever happened to…
Green went from the favorite to win Finals MVP before Game 6 to a complete non-factor by the end of Game 6. He shot just 1-for-7 from the floor and managed just three points in a game where, as Bosh promised, he did not see as many open looks as he had previously.

If the Spurs are moving the ball well to make space for their shooters, Green’s opportunities should increase dramatically in Game 7. And that should allow him to add to his already impressive Finals record for 3-pointers made.

Bottom line:

Throw out the trends of this series and the teams alternating wins and neither one of them being able to come up with back-to-back exemplary performances, and strap yourself in for what should be a wild 48-minute (or more) ride with two heavyweight contenders swinging until one of them drops.

“You know what, it’s all about just winning the title. It’s not about situation or what has led up to it,” Duncan said. “It’s a great story for everybody else, but we’re here for one reason, one reason only: It’s to try to win this game. We have had a very good season thus far, and I think we just want to get to the game more than anything. We just want to see what happens and be able to leave everything out there.”

Last Rodeo For Spurs As We Know Them?

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Tim Duncan is 37 years old and remarkably fit. He averaged 17.8 ppg, 9.9 rpg and 2.7 bpg this season. He became the second-oldest player behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to be selected to the All-NBA First Team. He is one win away from capturing a fifth NBA championship in his 16th season. He has two years and $20.7 million left on his contract, the second year being a player option.

But could this be it for The Big Fundamental? And if it is, could it set off a chain reaction that changes the San Antonio Spurs, modern sport’s most stable franchise, forever?

There are some of hints out there — nothing of much substance beyond some curious phraseology, but hints nonetheless — that at least make asking these questions legitimate, particularly if the Spurs beat LeBron James and the Miami Heat in tonight’s Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals (9 ET, ABC).

Start with Spurs point guard Tony Parker. After San Antonio swept the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference finals, Parker spoke of the promise he made to Duncan to get back to the NBA finals for another title shot after last season’s sudden and excruciating exit by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the West finals.

As the Heat and Pacers battled back and forth in the East finals, Parker sat down with CNN/Turner Sports reporter Rachel Nichols and expounded on his desire to return Duncan to the finals:

“Because for me, I get emotional when I talk with Timmy because he means so much to my career and he’s been such a great friend that I would love for Timmy to go out on top just like David Robinson went out on top in 2003. I would love to do the same thing for Timmy.”

The obvious ear-perker is Parker saying he would “love for Timmy to go out on top…” Does Tony know something that Timmy isn’t saying?

Robinson, who indeed retired a champion after the 2002-03 season — his second title alongside Duncan — still lives in San Antonio and attends his share of games at the AT&T Center, just as he did last week. Robinson was 37, the same age as Duncan, when he retired after a 14-year Hall of Fame career. He recently made this comment to Michael Lee of the Washington Post:

“I was fortunate to end my last game on a win. I’d love to see that for Tim. I don’t know if this will be his last [year]. If they win it this time, there’s nothing to say they can’t win it again.”

Robinson quickly added the caveat, but it is interesting that he’s at least thinking that this might be Duncan’s last rodeo.

And say it is, what would the chain reaction look like?

Take shooting guard Manu Ginobili, who won his first of three titles with Duncan in 2003. Frustrated by his struggles this season and throughout the playoffs, Ginobili didn’t bat down the notion of retirement last week after his futility reached a climax in Game 4. Ginobili turns 36 next month, battles two careers worth of wear-and-tear and will be a free agent this summer. He has been consistent in saying that he doesn’t envision himself stepping aside now, but he also hasn’t shut that door. Between Games 4 and 5, he was asked about retiring after yet another physically taxing season in which he missed 22 games, and Ginobili said:

“I really don’t know. All season long I kind of knew that I was going to play one or two more years. But when you are 36 — I’m going to be 36 pretty soon — everything is a day-by-day basis. Once the season finishes and I see how I feel, I can’t imagine me not playing at least one more year here, but time will tell. We’ll see.”

It’s worth pondering if a Duncan retirement would further push Ginobili in that direction following his least productive year since his rookie season.

Then there’s the case of coach Gregg Popovich, the longest-tenured active coach in the four major U.S. sports in his 17th season. For years, Popovich has hitched his wagon to Duncan. He reiterated that earlier this season to the San Antonio Express-News:

“When he doesn’t think he can [play], he’ll stop. It might be in the middle of a game. I can see him walking off the court saying, ‘Nah, I’m not pulling my weight anymore. I’m gone.’ And he’ll walk. And I’ll be right behind him, like this. No pride, no nothing.”

Duncan, thank you very much, was marvelous in Game 6 (30 points, 17 rebounds) and consistently still pulls his weight, which has dropped by some 25 pounds the last two seasons, a major factor in his renaissance.

So who knows? Maybe the Spurs win tonight and Duncan joins Robinson on the Spurs’ old-timer’s squad. He’s never seemed driven — or possessed — like Kobe Bryant to catch Michael Jordan at six rings. Maybe the Spurs win it all and Duncan wants more. Maybe the Spurs lose and he decides he can’t go through it again, or that he must. Who knows?

One day though, that day will come. When Duncan calls it quits, when Pop follows and when Manu returns home.

We just don’t know, as improbable as it might seem, if that day will be tomorrow.

Rating Ray Allen’s Big 3-Pointer





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Ray Allen‘s clutch corner 3-pointer that sent Game 6 of The Finals to overtime didn’t even rank among the top three impact plays in the final analysis of that epic contest.

My main man and NBA.com’s analytics expert John Schuhmann said something about the shot only increasing the Heat’s win probability by 10.8 percent, from 22.0 percent to 32.7 percent, or something like that.

But if the measurement was “Most Memorable 3-pointers Made in The Finals,” Allen’s shot that saved the Heat’s season (for at least 48, or more, minutes) has to rank among the best clutch shots from long distance anyone has made.

Win Game 7 Thursday night and, years from now, Allen’s shot will be the one that sticks out. It’ll rank right along some of the greatest clutch 3-pointers in the history of The Finals … shots like these:

Big Shot Bob (aka Robert Horry)’s dagger for the San Antonio Spurs in 2005 …


John Paxson’s crunch-time strike for the Chicago Bulls in 1993 …


TNT’s Kenny Smith’s money shot for the Houston Rockets in 1995 …


Dirk Nowitzki’s long-range shredder for the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 …

Jerry West’s 60-footer (it was only worth two points then) for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1970 …

And finally, Ron Artest’s (now Metta World Peace) game-saver for the Lakers in 2010 …

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 122): Game 7 Preview Featuring Phil Jackson

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Are we in store for an epic finish to an epic series? 

If Game 6 of The Finals is any indication, you have to believe the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs have saved some of their best drama for the final 48 minutes of what has been a wildly entertaining roller coaster of a series that could literally go either way once they hit the floor at AmericanAirlines Arena Thursday night.

With four guys — Tim Duncan and Tony Parker for the Spurs and Dwyane Wade and LeBron James for the Heat — as well as fellow future Hall of Famers Manu Ginobili of the Spurs and Ray Allen of the Heat, there is bound to be a few legacies on the line in a winner-take-all contest like Game 7.

Few people on the planet understand the inside of what goes on for all of the players and coaches involved in this game the way Hall of Fame Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson does. He’s got the 13 rings (11 as a coach and two from his playing days with the New York Knicks) to prove it, in case you didn’t already know.

How would he defend LeBron in Game 7? What does he think of the current coaching carousel going on around the league? Why doesn’t Brian Shaw have a head coaching job yet? Is he interested in getting back to where Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra are right now? And is it true that Rick Fox ranks ahead of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant on his all-time favorite players list?

The Zen Master joins us on Episode 122 of the Hang Time Podcast: The Finals Game 7 Preview … 

LISTEN HERE:


As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com,  Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand and the best engineer in the business,  Jarell “I Heart Peyton Manning” Wall.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

Despite Numbers, Spoelstra Sticking With Struggling Wade

 

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.”

Spurs Feast On Game 7 Opportunity

 

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.”

LeBron’s Legacy? Career Of Relentless Referenda

 

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 …

Enough.

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. (more…)