Posts Tagged ‘The Finals’

GameDay Live: Heat-Spurs Game 5


VIDEO: Kawhi Leonard did it all to pull the Spurs through against the Heat in The Finals

SAN ANTONIO — Fifteen years later, it still has to taste as sweet as the first time for San Antonio Spurs legend Tim Duncan and his coach Gregg Popovich.

Feels like the first time, indeed, even though this makes three titles in three difference decades and five total.

Larry O’Brien never looked so good.

The mighty San Antonio Spurs are your 2014 NBA champions, defeating the Miami Heat in five games and three straight breathtaking performances to dethrone the two-time NBA champs.

They did it on Father’s Day, too, a sweet day for their oldest player and proud father Duncan, the backbone of the franchise, and a bittersweet day for its young star, Kawhi Leonard (the youngest MVP of The Finals since Duncan 15 years ago), whose father was shot and killed at the family car wash in Compton, Calif., back in 2008, just as he was becoming a basketball star.

We can talk about LeBron James and the Miami Heat later, but tonight, it’s all about the “Spurs Way,” the blend of the old (Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili) and new (Kawhi … Patty Mills Boris Diaw and the rest) and one of the league’s true dynasties and the fact that team triumphed over talent when it mattered most.

And yes, they avenged that loss to the Heat in The Finals last year in the best way possible (outscoring the champs by 70 points in the five games and winning every game by 15 or more points), better known as …

#TheSpursWay

The “Beautiful Brand” wins out

There will be more converts to come, trust me. There will be more!

All respect due …

They do indeed. And they’ll get it around here.

Leonard’s time to shine is now!

You pick up a pen, write Kawhi Leonard’s name and then hand it to someone. Pretty simple.

#SpursWay

All team, all the time!

A timeless tradition … 

Old Man River Walk


VIDEO: Manu with the nasty lefty throwdown over Chris Bosh

Not the “Framily Plan” 

Low blow alert!

Kawhi-V-P 

There is no choice but to give this quiet warrior his due!

(more…)

Bosh’s firm Game 5 ‘guarantee’


VIDEO: Heat center Chris Bosh is guaranteeing a Game 6 in Miami Tuesday night

SAN ANTONIO — Give Chris Bosh credit for confidence in the face of the greatest odds. The Miami Heat center wasn’t the least bit shy about what he expects to happen tonight in Game 5 of The Finals against the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center.

“We’re not going down,” he said. “So we’re going to win this game tonight … plain and simple we’re going to win this game.”

It’s not the classic guarantee you might be used to, but in this series filled with some of the most polite animosity displayed between two teams, Bosh’s Game 5 edict with the Heat on the brink of elimination at 3-1 ranks right up there with Tim Duncan‘s “we’re going to do it this time,” comment that came in the lead up to Game 1.

“I don’t care about any guarantees we’re just going to win this game,” Bosh said. “Take it how you want it.”

The Heat are facing historic odds. No team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in The Finals.

But the Heat are trying to rally themselves emotionally by embracing the challenge of making history.

LeBron James talked about it Saturday, suggesting “why not us?” in regards to the Heat’s chances of pushing this series to a Game 6 Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami.

Bosh pushed it a step further this morning, even if wasn’t trying to.

GameDay Live: Heat-Spurs Game 2


VIDEO: LeBron James took over Game 2 and this series with his work in the third quarter Sunday night

SAN ANTONIO — The easiest target in sports is also the best teammate Chris Bosh has ever played with, and the most competitive and physical monster in a league filled with the most amazing athletes walking the earth today.

Don’t believe it?

Just watch go back and re-watch Game 2 of The Finals, when LeBron James (he finished with 35 and 10) took over the game, and perhaps this series, in a way only he can.

The man who couldn’t get back on the floor to help the Heat finish Game 1 was the catalyst for the Heat as they did exactly that in the fourth quarter of Game 2 here Sunday night, evening this series up at 1-1 as we head to Miami for Game 3 Tuesday night at American Airlines Arena.

His third quarter takeover changed everything.

“I do the same thing you all do when he gets going like that, Dwyane Wade said of LeBron’s wicked run after halftime, when he had 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting, 2-for-2 from beyond the 3-point line. “You sit back and watch the show. I know y’all do it, too. You’re not supposed to. But under your breath, I know you are.”

You don’t have to root for James or the Heat to be impressed with their resilience. This crew has still yet to dig itself a 2-0 hole in a series since the Big 3 joined forces. Six times they’ve lost Game 1 of a playoff series. They’ve never lost Game 2.

They showed up here on a business trip, to get one of these first two games on the Spurs’ home floor.

That business was handled Sunday night in what was a fantastic Game 2 of The Finals …

“We did our job,” Wade said.

***

Bosh doing his best LeBron (drive and kick) impersonation … 

Bosh with the drive and dish to Wade for the clincher!


VIDEO: Chris Bosh with The Play(s) of The Day for the Heat

Oy, Manu! 

Manu with the turnover, too hard for Timmy, critical mistake.

Cramp … you mean champs, right? 

Spurs up 94-92, LeBron drives and kicks to Bosh for the corner 3 with 1:18 to play and the lead for good. And people question whether or not having him in there at the end of Game 1 would’ve made a difference. Foolishness!

Nothing free about ‘em 

Six free throws in 18 seconds, make the first two and then four straight (crucial) misses — the first two from TP and the second two from Timmy — at the line. Can’t happen at home if you’re trying to go up 2-0!

Bron Bron putting on a show tonight! 

This is LeBron at his competitive best and his critics at their most silent!

Down goes Parker … 

The Dean of Discipline with swift justice!

Like a Bash! 

For a guy who swears he’s not interested in banging inside anymore, Mr. Bash looks awful good in the paint tonight.

Breathe 

This is the way Naismith meant for this game to be played!

We’re not worthy Patty …

Wicked third quarter from both sides. Patty Mills shows up, though, to spark the Spurs off the bench. LeBron was a demon!

Flashback …

He’s hunting now. LeBron’s just flat-out hunting the rim on every possession, be it from a distance or point-blank range.

Cramp this …

Knock this man all you want, but no one competes at his level on both ends. NO ONE!

XX

Hometown love … or not?

This is supposed to be Johnny Football‘s hometown. Guess blood ain’t thicker than #GoSpursGo

Give the whistles a rest …

This is the one thing Heat and Spurs fans can agree on … no one wants the officiating to become a bigger factor than any of the playmaking going on between two great teams. #letemplay

Welcome to the neighborhood …

That’s good company for Timmy!

Call it even at halftime …

A fitting end to the first half, locked up at 43-43. Couldn’t ask for more from the Spurs or Heat. Could ask for better, but not more …


VIDEO: Chris Bosh goes hard in the paint

Chris Bosh the Poster Child!

Trust me when I tell you, this doesn’t end well for several of these people not named Bosh!

Timmy with the bomb to TP …

Maybe’s he’s a point guard after all?

LeBron heating up …

When the L-Train starts rolling, watch out.

Faces of Pop …

This is Pop’s reaction to just about everything … good, bad or whatever!

What Nique said …

When a Hall of Famer speaks, you should probably listen …

When is Pop passing out pictures of Ray Allen?

The one player in black you don’t leave open at the 3-point line is …

You’re either up or down …

Plus-Minus

Babe!

Numbers Never Lie!

Better get bigger!

#RealTalk!

Passing up good for great …

That extra pass makes all the difference in the world for the Spurs’ offense.

Boris Diaw Heat Killer!

Boris probes and finds TP in the corner for 3!

Timmy’s still got bounce …

There is no expiration date on greatness. Timmy still tip dunking at 38 …

I believe the children are our future …

You know Miami will have a kid of their own ready for the anthem in Games 3 and 4!

Bench power …

From the desk of the Admiral!

Silver and Sterling …

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver spoke to the assembled media a short while ago. As you might imagine, effective shooting percentages did not come up. The major topics of discussion revolved, of course, around Donald Sterling and the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers and that pesky AC malfunction from Game 1.

VIDEO: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addresses the assembled media in San Antonio

Cool breeze?

It’s freezing in here.

No joke.

It is absolutely frozen in this building tonight. A complete turnaround from Game 1. So no excuses for anyone about the weather inside the arena tonight. In fact, these guys might want to find their sleeves and long stockings …

Times are changing in Charlotte!

The Charlotte Hornets (yes, they are the Hornets again) with the classy move to celebrate their All-NBA center Big Al Jefferson!

Reunited and it feels so good!

All we need now is Jalen, Jimmy and Ray … #FabFiveReunited

DA sits down with Timmay!

Don’t take anyone else’s word for it. Just listen to the Big Fundamental!

VIDEO: David Aldridge sits down with Spurs living legend Tim Duncan

Jones: Collective sacrifice fuels Heat


VIDEO: Ray Allen talks about how the Heat handled themselves in advance of another Finals trip

SAN ANTONIO — As much as the narrative of the Miami Heatles has centered on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh from the start, the four-year journey this team is still on is not strictly about those stars.

Yes, they sacrificed individual glory to be a part of what has become a movement, of sorts, in Miami and beyond. But they are not the only ones. Every man on the Heat roster has had to make some sort of sacrifice to be here, and that’s not lost on any of them.

The same “Heatles” t-shirts worn by Wade and Bosh after the Heat’s shootaround Thursday morning were like the ones worn by Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers and James Jones.

The Big 3?

Sure.

But this Heat team is so much more than that, the connection goes so much deeper than that and the collective sacrifice is so much greater than it appears from the outside.

“This is just the continuation of our chemistry,” Jones said of the Heatles t-shirts and the energetic vibe surrounding the Heat as they head into Game 1 Thursday night against the San Antonio Spurs. “We came into this thing, basically, all committed to an ideal and goal of winning a championship. And that meant we had to sacrifice on a lot of fronts. And until you get a chance to know these guys  … some people look at it financially, just the money [sacrificed] or the opportunity to win a championship. But for each guy, those ideals are different. So for each guy, as you get to know them better, you get a chance to help each other cope with those sacrifices. Because it’s not easy. And the better we can help each other manage it, the better our team becomes.”

For the role players, the sacrifice is more about playing time and prominence. A role player, a veteran shooter, like Jones might log major minutes depending on a matchup. Or he might not see the floor, for the exact same reason. Either way, he has to be ready on a Heat team where coach Erik Spoelstra will not hesitate to go outside of the box to get the desired results.

It’s an approach I’ve dubbed #ByAnyMeansNecessary, and one that Spoelstra and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich have utilized to the fullest last season when they led their teams to The Finals and again throughout this postseason to deliver us all the rematch.

It’s all born out of the same place, though, for the Heat and the Spurs … the collective sacrifice. No matter how you come together (be it for four years or 12), to reach this point in a season takes the ultimate sacrifice on the part of so many.

“Until you’re a champion no one can ever really imagine how difficult it is to get here [four years in a row or two straight year],” said Jones, who has been on the Heat roster longer than anyone except for Wade, Udonis Haslem and as long as Chalmers, who said, “It’s not all physical and it’s not all mental. It’s a mix. And when you throw expectations, your own expectations, on top of that, it’s a heavy load. And the champions find a way to manage that and overcome it.”

Hang time podcast (episode 163) The Finals preview

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Timmay or the King?

The ultimate team or the ultimate collection of talent?

Pop or Spo?

The seemingly ageless or the new age?

All of those questions will be answered because those forces will be at work during The Finals, which kicks off Thursday in San Antonio, when the Spurs and two-time defending champion Miami Heat will get their rematch on for the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Who wins this battle of wills, this clash of NBA titans?

Tim Duncan says he and his Spurs are going to do it this time. LeBron James and his Heat say bring it, they are ready.

We couldn’t just wait and let things play out naturally. We had to debate the merits of both championship outfits and weigh in with our own predictions. And you can find them, and more, on Episode 163 of the Hang Time Podcast … The Finals preview. Legacies are on the line for the nearly dozen future Hall of Famers, players and coaches, involved in this series.

But not everyone will be able to call 2014 their year.

So who’s it going to be? Who rides off into the sunset atop the basketball world this season?

Tune into Episode 163 of the Hang Time Podcast … The Finals preview and find out:

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 sound designer/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.

Spoelstra: LeBron For DPOY!





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We tossed the idea around here last week, much to the chagrin of those who absolutely adore LeBron James and those who still aren’t convinced he’s worth all the fuss.

Where can the four-time MVP improve his game at this stage of his stellar career? If there is room for the Miami Heat’s back-to-back Finals MVP’s game to continue to grow, where will that growth take place?

LeBron is already an all-court force of nature, capable of impacting games the way no one else in the league can (that includes you Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Chris PaulDwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and anyone else that wants in on the discussion). As great as some of these other start might be in one aspect of the game or another, not a one of them can match LeBron’s abilities in all disciplines.

That’s what makes the prospect of Heat coach Erik Spoelstra‘s Media Day challenge to James one of the most intriguing sidelights of this upcoming season.

“This year, it would be great to see him be acknowledged for the defensive work that he does,” Spoelstra said, planting the seed while at the same time saying that’s exactly what he wasn’t trying to do. “There’s no one else in the league that can do what he does. He’s been banging on that door, getting close. I don’t want it to be a campaign. It has to be earned. But he has that type of potential to be Defensive Player of the Year.”

Not since Michael Jordan has the best player in the league been this proficient on both ends of the floor. And Jordan, you could argue, played both sides as well as anyone who has ever laced up a pair of sneakers in a game in the NBA or anywhere else. James has the potential to do the same and has shown flashes of it throughout his career, particularly in the past three seasons.

Who could forget his defensive effort in The Finals in June? San Antonio Spurs big men Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan got a first hand taste of what he can do around the basket. For a man his size, his ability to defend on the perimeter is nothing short of ridiculous.

Can you imagine if LeBron was allowed to channel the majority of his energy every night into just playing shut down defense? I’m convinced he could challenge for a spot among the top 10 defensive specialists the league has seen. He’s that good, that talented and would certainly be that accomplished, if he were allowed to focus like that.

Did LeBron improve? I think it’s insulting to suggest otherwise. Since he’s been in Miami (and before) he’s come back year after year with new wrinkles to his game that require meticulous attention to detail in the gym during the offseason.

Capturing the ultimate prize, both team and individual glory, has not sapped him of his desire to tweak and improve his arsenal year after painstaking year. That’s a testament to the respect he has for those who have come before him, the folks who set the standard he’s trying to surpass and the mold he’s trying to break.

If LeBron needs any added motivation at this point of his Hall of Fame career, and I’m sure he doesn’t, let Spoelstra’s word ring in his ears night after night this season. And we’ll see if he’s capable of fueling the campaign his coach said he’s trying to avoid … “LeBron James, your 2013-14 Defensive Player of the Year!”



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.”

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 …

Game 6 Pressure High On Both Sides



.

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)
Year Team Opponent Result
1985 Boston L.A. Lakers Lost in 6
1988 L.A. Lakers Detroit Won in 7
1993 Phoenix Chicago Lost in 6
1994 Houston New York Won in 7
1998 Utah Chicago Lost in 6
2006 Dallas Miami Lost in 6
2010 L.A. Lakers Boston Won in 7
2011 Miami Dallas Lost in 6

The basics:
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.

The narrative:
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. (more…)

24-Second Thoughts On Game 4

 

24 – I love the kids as much as the next guy, but I’m wondering, is there an adult in either city capable of belting out the anthem?

23 – I know this is supposed to be about The Finals but I can’t stop daydreaming about what the Clippers would look like with Doc Rivers running the show … and maybe KG around to mentor Blake Griffin?

22 – Danny Green gets an open 3 early off Tony Parker‘s penetration. That hammy doesn’t appear to be much of an issue early either. Spurs are locked in right now. This is the fifth quarter of Game 3 for Green and Gary Neal, who is in seconds into the game.

21 – How long does this Dwyane Wade last? I wish he and Manu Ginobili had faced off in their respective primes. It would have been crazy to see them square off in 2005.

20 – Heat look much sharper defensively. Wade triggers the break again with a steal. And Freight Train LeBron James has suddenly appeared in San Antonio. Buckle up Spurs fans, it’s going to be a wild one tonight.

19 – Impressive rebounding from the Heat. Championship steady as they fought off the Spurs’ early flurry. From down 10 to up 29-26 at the end of the first, the earth tilts back on its axis after 48 hours of Heat doomsday scenarios.

18 – Tiago Splitter victimized again at the rim by a smaller man (Wade). Pump fake Tiago. Pump fake. Shane Battier gets him, too. Disgraceful!

17 – Every single time we count Wade out he comes back with an effort like this. And to think folks debated whether or not he should benched. Where he finds this resolve is beyond me. Left for dead one night and the most dominant force on the floor two nights later. The Finals has been his playground in the past, might he revisit 2006 tonight?

16 – The city of Miami and Heat Nation just went into shock with Wade on the sideline getting stretched after the foul and block attempt on Duncan … relax folks, he’s fine. Just needed to stretch out a little bit. This is his game now.

15 – I’m ready to take the “arguably” tag off of Parker’s “best point guard in the league” title. Anybody can shine. But can you do it on this stage? (more…)