HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Based strictly on what we’ve seen from these two teams thus far, Game 6 of The Finals should include plenty of drama and a Heat win by a comfortable margin. That would force a must-see Game 7 for the 2012-13 NBA championship, the ultimate stage for deciding a champion.
But it’s like LeBron James said, “the most important game is Game 6. We can’t worry about Game 7.”
The only game to worry about for both sides is Game 6, as the pressure on both sides will be sky-high. The Heat are in desperation mode to keep the series alive for a Game 7 while the Spurs need to avoid Game 7 at all costs.
Down 3-2 w/ final two games at home (since ’85)
Lost in 6
Won in 7
Lost in 6
Won in 7
Lost in 6
Lost in 6
Won in 7
Lost in 6
Game 6 tips off Tuesday night at 9 ET on ABC.
The Heat have no room for error tonight on their home floor, and the atmosphere at AmericanAirlines Arena should reflect that tension. A team that won a NBA-best 66 games during the regular season (and a whopping 27-straight at one point) has to win the next 48 minutes to keep their season alive. The Big 3 experiment and legacies for all involved are on the line. The Heat are in survival mode, fighting for the right to utilize home-court advantage in a Game 7.
Meanwhile, the Spurs are 14-2 in road close-out games since 2003. And they don’t want any part of a Game 7 in the Heat’s house. The pressure is on for them to end this thing tonight and claim their fifth title in their championship era. The Spurs didn’t need the validation of what they’ve done over the years, but No. 5 puts Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich and both Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili (neither of whom were around for the first title in 1999) onto the hallowed list of the NBA’s greatest champions.
Did the Indiana Pacers expose weaknesses in the Heat that the Spurs have continued to exploit? It certainly seems that way, especially defensively. The Heat surrendered 113 points and 114 points, respectively, in the two games they lost in San Antonio and allowed the Spurs’ shooters to go wild. They’ve been unable to scramble effectively on the perimeter to cover all of the shooters and couldn’t find their way in transition.
It’s not about role players doing the dirty work either. James and Wade have struggled as much as anyone on the Heat roster on defense. Neither one of them has shown any defensive consistency and both could be spotted jogging down the floor in Game 5 as the Spurs converted fast-break opportunities.
Their activity level, on both ends, in Game 4 was the difference in the Heat’s lone win in San Antonio. They’ll need to bring it again to keep this series going. If the Heat are truly at their best when they’ve been punched in the face and when their backs are against the wall, so to speak, then they should be outstanding tonight.
. SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Sure he thought about it. Vivek Ranadive didn’t get to be swimming in money and a majority owner in the NBA by not considering risks to big decisions. Of course he weighed the drawback to stacking one inexperienced hire on top of another.
He hired a general manager, Pete D’Alessandro, who had never been a general manager before.
Ranadive will have a toast-filled honeymoon in Sacramento because he replaced the unpopular Maloof family and the Kings will bask in a new energy because of the turnover throughout the organization. The new owner is making daring first strikes, considering he has been the primary decision maker for an NBA franchise for all of about one month.
Ranadive himself didn’t want to do it. He made the decisions in the wrong order and hired a coach first, when he should have hired a GM and left the major basketball calls to the basketball people. But he was fond of Malone from their time together in Golden State. And when he narrowed down the search for a personnel boss and considered Chris Wallace, Mike Dunleavy and other veterans, Ranadive was ultimately won over by D’Alessandro.
“When I started this process,” Ranadive said after the D’Alessandro hiring became official Monday, “to be totally honest, I was biased toward having a GM who had experience. Many years of experience. It was a very rigorous process. I interviewed some hard candidates. Quite honestly, when I spoke with Pete, he was a long-shot candidate. I went through a very rigorous interview process. I put these guys through the rigors. It was a few hours long, asking several questions, detailed questions. I did everything short of giving them an IQ test. Which I would have done. But this guy is amazing.
“I called (Chris) Mullin and I asked him that question the next morning. I spoke to Pete, it was early Saturday morning, I called up Mullin and I said, ‘Hey, what about this guy.’ He said, ‘He’s the smartest guy out there.’ ‘Is he ready?’ ‘Absolutely. No question about it.’ He was head and shoulders above, in my view, what I was looking for. Like I said, he was the smartest candidate, the hungriest guy and the most passionate guy. And you see that with all the comments that he’s making.”
Neither are total newbies — Malone had been an NBA assistant for 12 years with four different teams, D’Alessandro had been the video coordinator at St. John’s, a lawyer with agent Bill Pollack and then well-respected in front offices with Mullin in Golden State and Masai Ujiri in Denver. Both were considered rising stars in their respective fields. But that is not the same as the No. 1 chair. There is a learning curve, and now the two most-important people in basketball ops, as well as the owner, will be in their first season on the job at the same time with a team in desperate need for stability.
“I said to Vivek, ‘I’m ready to go,’ ” D’Alessandro said. “I was ready to go the second I sat in that interview and I think it came across that way. You know Masai Ujiri and you know he’s a guy who empowers. (Nuggets president) Josh Kroenke empowers. Chris Mullin empowers. I got to do a lot of things for a lot of really talented people. Is there a learning curve? I’m never done learning. But as far as being ready? I don’t feel like a first-time GM.”
This part of the growing Warriors connection, Ranadive said, is more coincidence. The new majority owner came from the franchise 80 miles away, the new coach as well, but D’Alessandro’s time with Golden State did not cross with Ranadive. Similarly, he did not work with Mullin, who is on the verge of joining the Sacramento re-birth as well, likely in a consultant role.
It seems unlikely that the streaky, 27-year-old guard will garner a higher salary on the open market than the one he’s turning down, but his unwillingness to stay in Milwaukee and his reported interest in teaming up with Dwight Howard undoubtedly fueled this decision. Ellis is one of the most explosive scorers in the league. However, he’s coming off the worst shooting season of his career at only 41.6 percent from the field on 17.5 attempts per game. An offense simply cannot be successful with its main scorer shooting so many shots at such a low clip, and Ellis will need to adjust his game if he hopes to be a contributor on a championship-caliber team.
For the Bucks, they still seem to have interest in Ellis, as they were unwilling to part with him during last season’s trade deadline and they reportedly offered him the extension mentioned earlier.
Unfortunately for Milwaukee, it appears they will have to overpay for the guard if they want to retain him. The other half of the Bucks’ starting backcourt, Brandon Jennings, may also be looking to leave Milwaukee As a restricted free-agent, the Bucks can match any offer sheet Jennings signs.
No matter what the backcourt looks like on opening night, the vibe from the organization and new coach Larry Drew is they plan to build around young big men Larry Sanders and John Henson.
MIAMI – If the Miami Heat can’t win two in a row, they can’t repeat as championships. It’s that simple.
Games are the building blocks of championships. Sixteen of the former equal one of the latter. There are multiple ways to get there, from a fo’, fo’, fo’, fo’ level of dominance that no team in NBA Finals history ever has quite achieved to a relatively mediocre 16-12 record if all four rounds of best-of-seven competition went the max. No one has done it that way, either.
But Miami has no options left. The team whose regular season was defined, and maybe gilded, by its ability to string together victories better than all but one of its predecessors – the Heat’s 27 straight ranks second only to the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers – now must win Games 6 and 7 of the 2013 Finals this week at AmericanAirlines Arena. Either that or fall short of the legacy it staked out for itself in the summer of 2010 and turn what purportedly was going to rival the Lakers, Celtics and Bulls in a run of rings into something more befitting the Atlanta Braves.
But the wiggle room is gone and the reality is one that necessarily flies in the face of sports’ grandest cliché: As much as the Heat say they want to play one game at a time, they must have two. There’s no getting around that and, probably, no forgetting it either as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the rest take the court for Tuesday night. The San Antonio Spurs will have the luxury of playing 48 minutes, but the Heat will be staring and maybe gulping at the prospect of 96.
How did this happen?
The Heat spent much of the three days between Games 4 and 5 talking about the same stuff. Enough is enough. Now is the time for our best road performance of the playoffs. Only enough wasn’t quite enough. And now wasn’t the time after all.
At least Miami is home for whatever remains of the championship series. Eight teams have been in the same pickle since the Finals went to its 2-3-2 format in 1985 – down 3-2 in the series – and three have dug out to win the NBA title: the Lakers in 1988, Houston in 1994 and the Lakers again in 2010.
Like this Heat, those teams faced mighty opposition too (the “Bad Boy” Pistons, the Pat Riley-led Knicks and the original blueprint “Big Three” Celtics). It’s entirely possible that what the Spurs put together Sunday was all about pride and saving face, exiting their arena for the summer on a high note and making some final fond memories of what might have been the last Finals home game for this particular group (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili).
That will be stirred into Miami fans’ hopes at least a little, because the alternative is downright unnerving. The Heat drip both talent and entitlement in equal doses and – though they talk of the respect they have for San Antonio’s run of excellence over 14 seasons – still come across as if these Finals are all about them.
The Spurs might be breaking it to Miami in the harshest way possible that the series just might be about them instead. They might wind up as equal to or better than the Heat over a span of six or seven games.
“We’re just trying to will it to happen,” Duncan said. “We hope we can respond better next game than we have after wins. That’s the one thing we want to clean up. Every one of us wants this very badly, from the top on down.”
Well, what d’ya know? The Spurs want to play better after winning. The Heat is frantic again after losing. That speaks volumes about Miami’s leadership, maturity and maybe even arrogance.
Any extended playoff series is about adjustments and there have been plenty. Also, the longer a series goes, the more flaws become visible on both sides. If this goes seven, whoever wins will be a three-time loser in the Finals.
Still, San Antonio made 60 percent of its field goals in the most pressurized game it has played this season. It didn’t exploit Miami’s greatest vulnerability, with a mere 36-34 edge in rebounds in game 5. The Spurs even survived 19 turnovers, which is like Superman surviving Kryptonite underwear.
Somehow, through it all, Boris Diaw, the Parisian doughboy, stymied the four-time Most Valuable Player through long stretches of Sunday’s game, a surprise switch-up from usual defender Kawhi Leonard. Parker reacted like a bull reacts to red whenever he saw Heat guard Norris Cole trying to guard him.
And Parker couldn’t help smiling and shaking his head at how neglectful the vaunted Miami defense has been on Danny Green, the unheralded role player who suddenly owns the NBA Finals record for most 3-pointers in a series (25) and is an improbable Finals MVP candidate for the team with the 3-2 lead.
The Heat, once again, was consistent only in inconsistency. Their adversity dials weren’t cranked up enough, this only being Game 5 of the NBA finals.
“There were times where we crawled back into it,” coach Erik Spoelstra said, “but we were not very efficient, did not move the ball the way we needed to, didn’t have the necessary patience in those key times, end of the first, end of the third. … We just weren’t executing with any kind of precision.”
James and Wade, in particular, were kept out of the paint or bothered whenever they entered. Defensively, neither showed the level of effort – which translates into leadership – required for the game’s highest level.
The two spoke afterward about fixing this or that, but whatever they need for Game 6 was there inside for Game 5. It just stayed untapped.
San Antonio tapped in instead.
“You just keep playing,” Popovich said. “We didn’t change defenses or put in a trick play or any of that kind of stuff. At this point it’s about competing. Players playing well and competing.”
The “Big Three” Heat will be facing the fifth and, if they’re lucky, sixth elimination games in their three postseasons together. They have trailed nine times in their 12 playoff series.
The most pertinent predicament to this: in the 2011 Finals, Miami went home down 3-2 to Dallas. Four quarters later, they went home, period.
“We challenge ourselves to see if we’re a better team than we was,” Wade said. “Everything happens for a reason and this is not a bad reason at all to go home for Game 6 on your home floor.”
At no point, however, in their 27-game winning streak did Miami beat the San Antonio Spurs twice in three nights.
Of the Spurs, Wade said: “They understand winning that last game is one of the hardest things you’re going to do.”
Miami can’t even think that way yet, forced to focus now on winning that next game.
SAN ANTONIO – From an Xs and Os standpoint, these Finals were billed as the San Antonio Spurs’ pick-and-roll game vs. the Miami Heat’s traps. Then came Game 5, when the Spurs switched things up and put themselves on the brink of their fifth championship with isolation basketball.
More isolations were not necessarily a part of the Spurs’ game plan. In many ways, the opportunities presented themselves, beginning with when Norris Cole checked into the game.
Cole replaced Mario Chalmers with 4:32 to go in the first quarter. And on four of the Spurs’ next five possessions, Tony Parker went right at him, getting two buckets in the paint and drawing two fouls. Parker again blew by Cole on the final possession of the first half, going about 55 feet in 4.1 seconds …
On that first possession, while his teammates were running a play, Parker just went straight at Cole. On two others, he didn’t bother using Tim Duncan‘s screen, instead backing out so he could get Cole one-on-one. And in the middle, he went straight at Cole in transition.
Both Parker and Cole checked out after that and the play before the half was Parker’s next chance to go at him. It was a matchup that Parker obviously wanted to exploit, and he did it for nine points on five possessions in the first half.
Cole played just 2:21 of non-garbage time in the second half, entering the game when Parker was taking a rest. But Parker found other matchups he liked, taking advantage of the Heat’s switches on pick-and-rolls to attack Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Dwyane Wade and Miller again …
On each of those possessions, Parker was initially guarded by LeBron James. But on pick-and-rolls involving two non-bigs, the Heat were switching. (Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem, conversely, would step out, wait for Parker’s defender to get back to him, and then recover to their own man.)
Switching takes some of the bite out of the Heat’s aggressive defense, keeps that second defender *out of Parker’s vision, and allows him to pick which defender he wants to attack. If the Heat are switching and Miller or Ray Allen is on the floor, it should almost be automatic that their man sets a screen for Parker.
* Go back to the Game 2 Film Study and check the screenshot with Chris Andersen keeping Parker from making a penetrating pass.
Parker led all scorers with 26 points and was a perfect 10-for-10 from within 10 feet of the basket on Sunday (James and Wade were each 5-for-14, by the way). Seven of those buckets came via isolations, another two came when he attacked Miller or Chalmers in transition, and the last came when he went away from the screen against James.
So none of the 10 baskets were a result of Parker going with the screen, which has been the bread and butter of the Spurs’ offense for the last few years. Teams make adjustments in a playoff series, and Parker picked a good time to throw a wrench in the Heat’s defensive game plan.
Manu Ginobili also picked a good time to play his best game of the season, scoring 24 points and dishing out 10 assists. He too did a lot of damage in one-on-one situations …
The Heat will have to rethink their switching scheme for Game 6 on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET, ABC). They may need to trap all screens (small-big or small-small) to get the ball out of Parker’s hands, force his teammates to make plays, and avoid the one-on-one matchups that he exploited on Sunday.
“They just absolutely outplayed us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after Game 5. “At times, they were just picking one guy out at a time and going mano-a-mano. That will change.”
SAN ANTONIO – With Manu Ginobili‘s 24 points and 10 assists in the San Antonio Spurs’ Game 5 win Sunday night over the Miami Heat, each member of each team’s Big Three has now had a big moment.
In Game 5, LeBron James (8-for-22 from the floor), Dwyane Wade (10-for-22) and Chris Bosh (7-for-11) didn’t shoot great, but they did combine for 66 points, 16 rebounds and 19 assists. Sounds like a winning formula just as the statistics of the Spurs’ Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and surprise starter Ginobili do: 67 points, 15 rebounds and 16 assists.
With such even production, what was the difference in the Spurs’ 114-104 win in Game 5?
The role players.
San Antonio’s continue to come up big. Danny Green hit six more 3-pointers and scored 24 points. Kawhi Leonard went 6-for-8 from the floor for 16 points, plus eight rebounds and three steals. Boris Diaw used his girth to make James uncomfortable for much of the game.
With Ginobili in the starting lineup, the Spurs’ first five all scored between 16 and 24 points. For Miami, Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers combined for seven points on 2-for-11 shooting.
RIGHT: Spurs coach Gregg Popovich‘s decision to insert the struggling Ginboili into the starting lineup paid tremendous dividends. Playing alongside Parker more often allowed Ginobili to play off the ball more with less defensive attention — and often with Miller on him — and he was aggressive with his drives. He knocked down his first two shots early in the first quarter and dished a couple of assists and confidence that had been so elusive rushed back. Ginobili finished with a season-high 24 points and 10 assists and the Spurs moved to 23-2 this season when Ginobili has at least six assists.
WRONG: One reason Popovich put Ginobili in the starting lineup is because Heat coach Erik Spoelstra changed up his starting lineup for Game 4, going for offense with a smaller lineup that included Mike Miller instead of rugged forward Udonis Haslem. Off the bench, Miller was on fire, canning 9-for-10 shots from the beyond the arc. In two games as a starter, Miller is a combined 0-for-2 from the field (both shots from 3-point range) for zero points in nearly 46 minutes.
RIGHT: A few days ago Danny Green said he’s still waiting for someone to pinch him and wake him up. Yeah, well, the Spurs would like for that person to stay away for at least one more win. Green is on an historic hot streak and after he dropped another six 3-pointers in Game 5 on 10 attempts, he’s 25-for-38 (65.8 percent) from beyond the arc. He surpassed Ray Allen with the most 3-point baskets ever in an NBA Finals — and it’s only Game 5. He’s hit four, five, seven, three and six 3s in the first five games. Remarkable.
WRONG: The Heat’s defense on Green. As Parker said after Game 5, how in the world is Green open, ever, beyond the arc at this point in the series? Now, as Green said, he’s not actually open every time, he’s hitting contested 3s as well. The Spurs move the ball so well that it’s impossible to contain Parker, Ginobili and Duncan and still protect the 3-point arc. If the Heat want to stay alive for a Game 7, they’ll have to figure this out.
RIGHT:Dwyane Wade has really dialed back the clock. He had the huge 32-point, six-rebound, four-assist, six-steal Game 4 and followed it up with 25 points and 10 assists in Game 5.
WRONG: Have the tables turned for the Heat? Should we now be saying Wade can’t do it alone? James had his struggles in Game 5, scoring 25 points on 8-for-22 shooting, which included a ghastly 2-for-11 in the second half and 1-for-5 in the fourth quarter with just one free throw attempt in 10:54.
RIGHT: Another example of Pop pushing the right button at the right time was his use ofBoris Diaw in Game 5. Diaw logged nine and 11 minutes, respectively in Games 1 and 2 and didn’t play at all in Game 3 before logging another 11 minutes in Game 4. In Game 5? Diaw played 27 minutes and much of that time was spent putting his weight on James, who finished 8-for-22 from the floor.
WRONG: Another example of the Heat getting nothing out of a role player isChris “Birdman” Andersen — not that it’s his fault. He’s become a victim of Spoelstra’s small-ball lineup. A significant contributor in the East finals against Indiana, Birdman didn’t miss a shot until Game 7 of that series. He played the first three games of this series until Speolstra inserted Miller into the starting lineup and starting bringing Haslem off the bench. So not only have the Heat gotten no scoring out of Miller, they’ve kept their energy guy on the bench.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Good luck deciphering what’s real and what’s patently absurd in regards to the on-again, off-again saga that is the Los Angeles Clippers’ pursuit of Doc Rivers as their next coach.
Franchises making trades to appease coaches, who in turn will walk away from one team to coach another … it’s news from basketball’s bizarro world. And free agency is still two weeks away.
As of this morning, Rivers remains the Boston Celtics’ coach, with three years and $21 million on a contract that the Celtics would love for him to see through. The Clippers have two other prime choices, Indiana Pacers assistant coach Brian Shaw and former Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, ready and willing to take over the reins of a franchise coming off its finest season in history.
Discussions over a blockbuster deal reached an impasse on Saturday when Boston general manager Danny Ainge held firm that Bledsoe had to be a part of package that included DeAndre Jordan and a first-round pick, but sources say that Boston has shown a willingness to find another asset to supplant Bledsoe and complete the complicated deal, sources said.
The Clippers are prepared to give Rivers a five-year deal to coach and believe acquiring Rivers and Garnett – who will waive his no-trade clause – will lock up the re-signing of free-agent superstar Chris Paul, sources said.
The prospects of bringing Rivers back to the Celtics have become less appealing for Boston, who understand, as one league executive said, “There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. You can’t pretend this didn’t happen and just go back to work.”
Even if we are to believe that a Clippers-Celtics trade is contingent upon the Celtics getting their hands on Bledsoe, we all have to swallow the reality that this is still a system where marquee coaches and players continue to rule the world. Because no fringe player should ever hold up a slam-dunk deal that involves a franchise starving for direction and leadership missing out on a leader like Rivers.
The complications arise when you try to figure out what Rivers has in mind without hearing him explain it. He hasn’t uttered a public word about his intentions, leaving others to speculate about what it is he plans to do regarding his future — with the Celtics and in coaching altogether.
The potential trade with the Los Angeles Clippers that would have freed up Doc Rivers to coach them is still considered a no-go.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean Rivers will be back on the sidelines as the Celtics head coach this season.
A league source tells CSNNE.com that Rivers has not entirely ruled out taking some time off to resume his broadcasting career and return afterwards to coach.
“You guys (media) have been around Doc long enough to know that’s always been something he’s talked about,” the source said. “So it shouldn’t come as a surprise. And frankly, now is probably as good a time as any for him to go that route.”
If Rivers needs an escape route for the rebuilding process that seems inevitable in Boston, rekindling his broadcast roots might be the best route. The ill will a potential move to the Clippers’ bench will foster in Boston will be severe.
But if the Clippers are serious not only about acquiring Rivers, Garnett and Paul Pierce to pair with Paul, but also pursuing and eventually adding Dwight Howard, who is central to Phase II of this fantasy basketball plot, consider me impressed by the audacity of the Clippers to dream this big.
Never mind that the Lakers still believe that Howard will stick around. Building a future around the game’s best big man is much easier to do than building around an All-Star like Blake Griffin, who would have to be a part of any theoretical sign-and-trade deal.
(The Lakers doing this sort of business with the Clippers is yet another patently absurd idea that, in this environment, is every bit as plausible as anything else we’ve heard.)
If all of this hinged on the return of an injured stars like, say, Kobe Bryant or Rajon Rondo, all of the hand-wringing over the minutiae would make a little more sense. Any time there is a potential blockbuster deal to be made, you have to be willing to listen. Ainge has always been willing to do so and the Lakers and Clippers have not been strangers to the blockbuster in recent seasons (both Paul and Howard were acquired via blockbuster deals).
But for all of this to rest on the shoulders of Paul’s backup, albeit a talented young player in his own right, just doesn’t seem right.
SAN ANTONIO – The two-day buildup — a wait Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says was “like death” — certainly seemed a slow, uncomfortable march toward an unexpected funeral. It was the sudden end of the road for beloved family member Manu Ginobili.
Turns out the vibe was all wrong.
Sunday night exploded into a big, fat Argentine wedding. There was dancing and singing and celebrating and chants of “Manu! Manu!” The AT&T Center roared with the atmosphere of a welcomed revival and the deliverance of sweet redemption for Ginobili, the San Antonio Spurs’ Game 5 hero.
Just as LeBron James and especially Dwyane Wade had risen to claim Game 4, as if on cue or following this weird Finals script, Ginobili set the Game 5 tone in his first start in more than a year. And now it’s the Spurs who are on the brink of a fourth title in 10 years and a fifth in 15 with the 114-104 victory for a 3-2 series lead.
And just about 72 hours after James and the Heat seemed to suck the life out of San Antonio in this wildly unpredictable series, may the never-ending referendum on James’ legacy resume with he and the Heat on the ropes.
Just a day earlier, Ginobili had stood behind a podium and a microphone on the same arena floor. The word retirement spilled from his mouth. Even if it was only because of the gathering frustration within him, incapable of articulating, or even understanding, his own demise in this postseason. Maybe it was just dejection that he wasn’t shouldering his load with this long-awaited opportunity at another, possibly the last, championship at stake.
“He did seem dejected,” Tim Duncan said. “He’s a competitor, an extreme competitor. And he wants to play well and he wants to help our team do well. Just like a lot of us, we lose games and we take the blame for it. He’s just the same way and he wanted to play well really badly.”
Popovich, either desperate to jumpstart his longstanding sixth man or countering the Miami Heat’s revamped, smaller starting lineup — Pop claimed both — told the 6-foot-5 Ginobili on Saturday that he’d start. Just weeks from turning 36, he would be in the starting lineup for the first time since Pop shook things up in the elimination Game 6 of the West finals more than a year ago.
He never stopped scorching Miami with the full Manu Platter: executing one-on-one dribble penetrations, well-timed kick-outs and classic Ginobili awkward finishesaround the rim to bury the Heat with a killer double-double. He finished with a season-high 24 points on 8-for-14 shooting and 10 assists in 33 electric minutes. He had had 17 points and nine assists in the last three games combined.
With 2:21 left in the third quarter, and Ginobili on another mini-tear that broke open a 75-74 lead that had been whittled down from 17 in the first half, the chants of “Manu! Manu!” flooded the arena of 18,581. So many wearing his No. 20 jersey, unprepared and unwilling to say goodbye to Ginobili for the last time.
“I needed it,” Ginobili said. “I was having a tough time scoring and I needed to feel like the game was coming to me and I was being able to attack the rim, get to the free-throw line and make a couple of shots. So it felt great when I heard that [the chant]. To feel that I really helped my team to get that 20-point lead, it was a much-needed moment in the series.”
The Spurs never trailed, but the sold-out house seemed to hold its breath as the Heat continued to mount counter-attacks. When it got to be 75-74, it felt like the scales might tip. They did, back to San Antonio. Green, now the all-time leader for 3-pointers in Finals history, hit another big one to make it 78-74.
Ginobili followed with a fabulous baseline drive around Ray Allen for a three-point play, and on the next possession he blew by Norris Cole for a floater to make it 83-74. The next trip down he whipped a pass into the lane for Tiago Splitter, who not only managed to hold onto the pass but also finished with a layup and the run was 10-0.
It would balloon to 19-1 and the crowd roared and Ginobili felt fulfilled and the Spurs empowered to win one more and win it all. When the series shifts back to South Florida on Tuesday night, the Larry O’Brien Trophy will be in the house.
“I needed to feel more important, more of a threat attacking the rim,” Ginobili said. “It was good to see it happen.”
If he can do it again, Sunday’s Game 5 party will have nothing on what’s to come.
SAN ANTONIO – There was a reaction shot of Miami’s Ray Allen floating around the Internet within minutes of Danny Green‘s fourth 3-point field goal Sunday in Game 5 of the 2013 Finals at the AT&T Center.
Danny Green’s Game 5 shot chart
It showed Allen — the NBA’s all-time 3-point champion and, until Sunday, the record holder for most “makes” from distance in a Finals series — rubbing his head and grimacing immediately after Green’s 3-pointer in transition put the Spurs up 66-60 at 9:40 of the third quarter.
Allen’s sour reaction had everything to do with Miami’s defense leaving Green unguarded yet again and little or nothing to do with the fact that it was Green’s 23rd 3-pointer of the series, which meant it was Allen’s record of 22 got eclipsed.
But the juxtaposition just added heft to what Green has been doing in this championship series, from its opening tip to San Antonio’s wire-to-wire 114-104 victory in Game 5 for a 3-2 edge.
A second-round draft pick, a scrub on LeBron James‘ last Cleveland team, a fellow who was cut twice by the Spurs before wising up and talking his way into another chance, has been pummeling the NBA’s defending champs at a record pace, right in the grill of the league’s 3-point king. Allen, who ranks No. 1 both in 3-pointers taken and made over his 17-year career, hit 22 of his 42 shots while spotted around the arc in the 2008 Finals for the Boston Celtics. That series lasted six games.
Green already has hit 25 on 38 attempts, and this one’s just five games old.