Heat Steal Overtime Thriller

If you fell asleep before the end of this game last night, I feel bad for you. It was one of the best basketball games that has ever been played. The San Antonio Spurs came into Miami with the momentum from a solid victory in game 5 and they looked like they were well on their way to another championship. They outplayed the Heat for the first 3 quarters and all they had to do was play 12 more solid minutes of basketball and the championship was theirs. And then, seemingly in a blink of an eye, someone knocked off Lebron James’ headband and knocked some sense into his head. He flipped that switch that everyone in the world (other than himself apparently) knows he can. He physically took over the game at both ends of the floor and singlehandedly brought his team back from the brink of elimination. I don’t care what Lebron’s final stat line turned out to be though, he did not play well until the 4th quarter. Now, despite his dominating play in the 4th quarter, the Heat still found themselves down 5 points with under 30 seconds to play. While the 2nd to last minute of the game was filled with Heat mistakes, the last minute (and overtime) was filled with Spurs mistakes. And Gregg Popovich deserves the majority of the blame for these blunders. Yes, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard both missed free throws down the stretch, but it was the benching of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker at the most inopportune times that will stick in my mind. For those of you who missed the end of the game let me give you a quick rundown of what I’m talking about. The Spurs were up 4 points with 28 seconds left in regulation and Manu Ginobili was heading to the free throw line. He had the opportunity to put the game nearly out of reach. Instead, he misses the first free throw and makes the second. Then after a Heat timeout, Tim Duncan was left on the bench for Boris Diaw. On the ensuing possession Lebron misses a 3-pointer but Mike Miller grabs the offensive rebound, swings it back out to James, and bang he nails the shot. Would Duncan have gotten that defensive rebound if he was in the game? There is no guarantee, but I would have bet money on it. Now, down 2, the Heat send Kawhi Leonard to the free throw line on a phantom foul by Mike Miller. He follows in Ginobili’s footsteps and proceeds to miss the first and make the second free throw. Inexplicably, Popovich decides to take Duncan out of the game AGAIN. This obviously leads to yet another offensive rebound by the Heat, which in turn leads to the game tying 3-pointer by Ray Allen. Popovich may be one of the greatest coaches of all time, but how do you explain these tactical errors?

Now what occurred immediately following Allen’s monumental 3-pointer is the fact that the game was stopped to review whether the shot was in fact a 3-pointer. No one is talking about this today, and this angers me to a level that I don’t have a word for, and Popovich was pretty livid with the referees as well. As seen in overtime, Popovich likes to take the ball and push it (off makes or misses) in hopes to catch the defense off guard for an easy basket. He will do this no matter the situation, and if the Spurs were able to inbound the ball and push it right away no one knows what could have happened. The game was stopped and while the Spurs did get time to set up a play, so did the Heat’s defense. In turn, the final possession in regulation failed miserably and it was off to overtime we went. I’ll fast forward to the last 31 seconds because that’s where it gets interesting. The Spurs were down by one and Gregg Popovich, for no sane reason, decides to take Tony Parker out of the game. Common sense would dictate, and even the commentators mentioned that Popovich would most likely be bringing Parker back into the game on the next timeout. So, the Heat miss their shot attempt and the Spurs grab the rebound with just under 10 seconds to play. Instead of calling a timeout to bring Parker back in and set up a play, the Spurs decide to push the ball up the floor. Manu Ginobili (who played one of the worst games you’ll ever see) tries to drive the lane against 3 Heat players and gets stripped/fouled and the ball lands in Ray Allen’s hands. Allen is fouled with 1.9 seconds left on the clock and knocks down both free throws (of course). The Spurs then call a timeout to push the ball past half court. With one final effort, Tim Duncan inbounds the ball across the court to Danny Green who is blocked/fouled by Chris Bosh as time expires. The Heat force a game 7 in dramatic fashion, and if it is anything like game 6 it will not disappoint.

The big question at this moment is: how can the Spurs possibly bounce back from a crushing defeat to win game 7 on the road? It is a tough question to answer, but I believe if any team can do it, it would be this years Spurs. They have shown their resiliency in this series, always bouncing right back immediately following a defeat. Tim Duncan will need to use his two greatest inventions to do it though; his time machine and his cloning machine. In order for the Spurs to win game 7, Tim Duncan needs to play like he did back in 2003, and he needs to clone himself from the first half of game 6. Duncan was masterful in the first half, scoring at will and putting on a rebounding clinic. Duncan took Chris Bosh to school last night, dominating him in every aspect of the game. It is so impressive to watch Duncan play at such a high level after so many years, and Chris Bosh is no match for Duncan’s greatness in the low post. The Spurs could also use a slightly better effort from Manu Ginobili if they plan on celebrating on Miami’s home court Thursday night. But the most important task for the Spurs in game 7, is to contain Lebron James. Lebron continues to move from the most important game of his career to the most important game of his career. He should look to take control early as he did in last night’s 4th quarter. However, I’m sure the Spurs would love to see him come out flat again with 9 points in the first half. Think about that, Lebron scored 9 points on 3-12 shooting in the first half. That’s horrible! And while Boris Diaw and Kawhi Leonard deserve all the credit in the world for their defensive job on Lebron, no one should hold him to those kind of numbers, ever.

Game 7 should be another epic chapter in the history of the NBA. Take a nap Thursday afternoon, throw water on your face at halftime, or drink 3 coffees and red bull because you won’t want to miss this game. Tune into game 7 on ABC at 9:00 p.m. to catch all the action. Oh, you want a prediction? How could I forget? I would love for the Spurs to win, but I see the Heat winning a tight one; 99-96. I have my fingers crossed right now (yes I’m typing) and I’ll be on the edge of my seat rooting for the Spurs Thursday night, but that’s how I see it going down. Enjoy! Leave your predictions below in the comment section.

If you enjoy my writing, follow me over to intheneutralzone.com where I am a contributing author there as well. Also you can follow me on twitter @DaveEttinger2 or like me on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/DaveTalksSports. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it!

Complete And Utter Domination

Have you ever seen a game where the score didn’t fully reflect how the game went? Well, that was what happened last night. The crazy thing about that is the 36-point whooping (113-77) the Spurs laid on the Heat didn’t do the Spurs performance justice. The only reason the Spurs didn’t win by 50 was because of Mike Miller and his 5 3-pointers. Miller is now 8-8 in the last 2 games and hasn’t missed a 3-point attempt since Game 1. There wasn’t one aspect of this game that the Spurs didn’t dominate. Their swarming defense created 16 turnovers while holding the almighty Lebron James to a measly 16 points on 7-21 shooting. The most amazing statistic from this game was that Lebron did not make 1 trip to the free throw line the entire game. The Spurs dared James as well as his buddies Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade to shoot the ball. They backed off the ball and crowded the paint. This forced James to shoot outside shots all night. So much for an improved jump shot, huh?

While the Spurs obviously benefited from Danny Green and Gary Neal’s performances, Gregg Popovich should receive most of the credit for this victory. He implemented a game plan that he knew would work. He figured the Heat can not beat them if they keep their entire roster at least 15 feet from the basket at all times. It was almost like their was an invisible barricade keeping the Heat from getting to the basket. This is a recipe for success against the Heat. Kawhi Leonard also deserves a lot of credit for the job he has done defensively against James. James has been bad in this series, and a lot of it has to do with Leonard’s defense. Side note: don’t sleep on Kawhi Leonard. He is going to be one of the best two way players in the NBA in 2 years if he continues to improve his offensive repertoire. Anyway, everyone else can feel bad for the over analyzation of Lebron James, but not me. When you are supposed to be the second coming of Michael Jordan and you are now being mentioned in the same breath as MJ, you deserve all the scrutiny that is thrown your way. Fans, analysts, and people alike can talk about James’ supporting cast and their struggles, but at the end of the day it comes down to Lebron James and what he needs to do to win. If you want to be the best ever, you better show up and get it done when the lights are at their brightest. Everyone else can also stay on that Lebron James is clutch bandwagon, but not me. What, because he hit a layup in the regular season against the Orlando Magic to extend their winning streak and a wide open layup against the Pacers in the playoffs he’s all of a sudden clutch? Nope. What Lebron needs to do is physically impose his will and takeover these games. I just don’t think the combination of Duncan, Parker, Ginobli, and Popovich are going to allow that to happen.

What most people are forgetting is that Tony Parker only contributed 6 points in this contest. Parker got banged up during the game and actually had to go back to the locker room for treatment on his hamstring at one point. He would return to the game but was a
non-factor for the rest of the contest. With Parker virtually non existent, Danny Green and Gary Neal more than picked up the slack. Green finished with 27 points on 9-15 shooting from the field including 7-9 from 3-point range!! Neal also added 24 points on 9-17 shooting from the field including 6-10 from 3-point range!! If 2 players from any team are going to combine for 13-19 from downtown, I don’t care who you are playing, you are going to win that game. And that’s what happened. The Spurs won in more than convincing fashion, and they will without a doubt try to carry this momentum into Game 4 on Thursday night. I believe the Spurs will play an efficient Game 4, but the 3’s wont drop at the rate they did in Game 3. The Heat will bounce back and Lebron will play much better as well, which should lead to an epic Game 4. This game becomes incredibly important for the Miami Heat, for if they lose they will find themselves on the brink of elimination and still on the road. At the same time, if Parker can’t play to at least 75% of his potential than the Spurs will lose Game 4. You can catch all the action in Game 4 on ABC @ 9:00 p.m. Enjoy!

If you enjoy my writing, follow me over to intheneutralzone.com where I am a contributing author there as well. Also you can follow me on twitter @DaveEttinger2 or like me on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/DaveTalksSports. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it!