For one night, the Spurs let a championship vanish before their eyes

by

“We were a few seconds away from winning the championship, and we let it go.”

As Manu Ginobili sat at the podium cloaked in dejection, a Spur was finally fully transparent. His facial expressions, his tone, his body language — they all told the story.

“I’m devastated,” he would say.

The Spurs had just watched a 5-point lead with 28 seconds remaining slip through their fingers, and along with it, an NBA championship. At least for one night.

Two crucial Miami offensive rebounds led to two different made 3-pointers in the final 20 seconds of regulation, the second of which — a Ray Allen bomb from the corner — eventually sent the game to overtime where the Heat prevailed, 103-100, to force as improbable a Game 7 as you’ll ever see in the NBA Finals. To surpass the events of the overtime period would not tell the whole story, but the main plot, the absolute turning point, the shocking twist came before the extra period even began.

It’s difficult to put in words what we just saw, but there’s no shortage of starting points.

But the line that stands out in the box score like a dead body in a Miss America pageant is the atrocity Ginobili posted on the biggest night of the Spurs’ season. A 2-for-5, 9-point, 4-rebound, 3-assist performance came two nights after an all-time vintage Manu game, and the worst part came in the turnover category.

Ginobili had 8 turnovers in Game 6, more than half the total of the entire team. It was a trainwreck for one of San Antonio’s most beloved, and just 48 hours after he played hero, he was the face of a team in pain.

“I have no clue how we’re going to be re-energized. But we have to,” he said. “There’s no Game 8 afterwards. We’re going to have to play our best game, even better than today.

“Shoot better, better defense, less turnovers in my case. But yeah, there’s no secret recipe for bouncing back.”

He’s right. There’s no recipe for recovery after what happened tonight. The outcome of Game 6 will be remembered for a long time, and it will be up to the Spurs to make sure it isn’t etched in stone for all of history. The Spurs had a game in their hip pocket, but they don’t anymore.

At this point, a typical recap seems pointless. This was one of the most painful losses San Antonio has ever experienced, and could top the list by Thursday if Miami wins this thing.

But that’s a BIG ‘if.’

Basketball is an emotional game, especially when your heart is ripped out of your chest like it was tonight. The ups and downs of a game that appeared to belong to San Antonio will make you reel when you recall how little they meant in the end. The memory of Duncan’s first half and — outside of young Kawhi Leonard’s contributions — the relative lack of help he received from his teammates will be wrestled with all the way through Thursday’s tip-off, and the feeling of a wasted chance will echo through the brains of fans during that stretch as well.

The Spurs can be better, though. Ginobili and Tony Parker combined for perhaps their worst ever performance as teammates, and yet the game was there to be had. It’s highly unlikely they’ll be that historically bad two games in a row. And one of the constants of this game is the defense. Aside from the first quarter and the LeBron fourth-quarter surge, San Antonio was pretty damn good on that end. It’s an effort that can be replicated.

What’s most problematic about a loss like this is that it feels like the end of the world. Yet here we are, still talking about basketball. Still asking about the adjustments that must be made before the next game. A series with a rhythm and a pattern that has yet to be interrupted is still on schedule. And wouldn’t you know it? The Spurs have a chance to continue the trend. These Finals have been as wacky as anything I’ve ever seen, and if you’ve given up after tonight, if you don’t think the Spurs have a shot, then you haven’t been watching this series.

This game belonged to the Spurs in regulation, and they let it get away. It was one of the most un-Spurs-like thing you’ll ever see. San Antonio is tired, but don’t forget, Miami is exhausted, too. They spent everything they had to come back and win that game, and Dwyane Wade continues to look worse and worse on his knee. This is going to be a street fight.

“We don’t think we played a great game, but we were in a great position,” Manu said.

He’s right. And as awful as tonight was, they still have one more chance to get right back in that spot. So take a deep breath.

The Spurs already have.


  • John

    Never thought Pop would go Frank Vogel when taking out Duncan twice.

  • Bear

    To me that wasn’t even the worst of Pop. To start the second half, I thought for sure Diaw would replace Manu. Nope. Then the end of the 3rd was shaky with Manu and Splitter so to start the 4th, I thought for sure we’d go back to the starting lineup except Boris in for Manu. Nope again. Those were horrific lineup mistakes that let the Heat back into the game. Then to add insult to injury, the two aforementioned Duncan-to-the-bench-because-Pop-is-too-smart-for-his-own-good moments.

    Sure free throws etc played a part but Pop’s rotation was god awful. And he doubled down by letting god awful linger too long. I blame Pop and nothing anyone says can change my mind on that. We gave away a game and possibly the title. The only glimmer of hope is that Manu might be so embarrassed by his horrible game that he pulls a miracle out of his ass for game 7 but that doesn’t seem likely.

  • clennon

    Not just for one night. This championship opportunity is gone, crapped away with Manu’s million bonehead turnovers and Pop’s Vogel impression. There is a 0% chance that the Spurs win game 7.

  • Leonard Hamilton

    Thanks Pop, your check is in the mail.

  • Ra

    Just finished watching the Countdown crew for ABC/ESPN talk about how the arena workers in Miami were wheeling out the NBA championship trophy right past where they were setup. Man, this sucks. Wilbon even said the Spurs choked.
    The only recourse left for the Spurs is….to get pissed! To be furious. To see red! To feel like, “That’s OUR championship! We are TAKING what’s ours! We are BETTER than the HEAT! You are going to have KILL us to win game &.
    They just have to get pissed, and not dejected. Empty their gas tanks in game 7. Whatever’s left of Duncan’s knee, Parker’s hamstring, Ginobili’s….um…whatever, just leave on all on the floor.
    The only recourse left..

  • Tim in Surrey

    Or they could do what they always do: Show up, play hard, play smart, and keep pounding the rock until it splits. They’ve been through this before and bounced back. Hell, this whole year is a testament to their ability to bounce back from a “devastating” loss (in the WCF to OKC). I think they’ll be fine. And Miami needs to worry about what they always do: relaxing after a win. If they’re not loaded for bear, they’ll lose. And there’s a good chance they’ll lose even if they are.

  • Spurs fan in Australia

    Game 7 is going to be tough and hopefully Spurs have enough left in them to get over the line, but 2 things I think may play into Spurs favour 1) Heat recent pattern of win-loss-win and 2) I could see Heat team going in thinking its in the bag and being over confident.

    Either way, 1 more game and Spurs can do it. It’s gonna be tough but can be done.
    By the way, I really hate Chris Bosh. Dunno why, just can’t stand the guy

  • cjdapd

    There is absolutely no excuse for sitting the best PF of all time during crunch time of a Finals clincher, absolutely none! We needed one damn rebound and our best player, our leader, our fundamental heart, literally the only man who wouldn’t LET us lose tonight was on the damn bench! I will never forgive Pop for this, NEVER, regardless of what happens next. Tim earned the right to be on the court, he DESERVED to be on the court, he deserved to see this game through to the end. I can’t even begin to tell you how furious I am, Pop is dead to me.

  • Melbourne Spur

    I have to agree. At first I was so deflated I had the negative feelings that many have expressed. But the reality is we have another chance. I have gone from devastated to angry for revenge.
    You know how when a team loses the championship and they talk about thinking about nothing but revenge all summer and having to wait all season to get another chance, well surely that is how the players must feel now, but they get their chance in 2 days. They should be so motivated from this.
    I think losing this way is actually better than being blown out in terms of where our heads should be at.
    Bring on game 7 I say, and hopefully the players are saying that too.

  • NYC

    I hope you’ll reconsider in the calmer light of the day after, but I do see your point and believe you have a valid criticism. That will go down as a questionable choice by Pop for a long time to come.

  • NYC

    Oh I can think of two big reasons off the top of my head: block on Parker, block on Green.

  • NYC

    And you know this because… you have ESP while the rest of us have only ESPN?

  • NYC

    So what you’re saying is if we lose, give all the credit to Pop. But if we win, give none of the credit to Pop.

    Sure, why not? That’s a logical and objective line of reasoning.

  • Len

    A. Rimming out your first FT and then nailing your second does not constitute “choking”. Nor does making 3 out of 4. Neither Kawhi or Manu choked on those FT’s.
    B. Pop’s decision to sit Duncan for both defensive possessions is going into the hall of bonehead coaching decisions. Just a terrible decision by Pop.
    C. I really think Pop should consider going deep into his bench for game 7. I know it goes against everything that we’ve been lead to believe about game 7’s but the Spurs are going to be significantly gassed. I would have no problem giving Blair, Bonner, Nando, CoJo and yes even T Mac some burn .

    I still love this franchise. Go Spurs Go

  • TheFG21

    Aaaaaarrrggghh!!!!!! I have this mix bag of feelings thats crazy. Im mad, sad, full of anger, drained, positive that – I dont know how – we are gonna win this thing… Long LONG wait till tomorrow night.

    GO! SPURS! GO!

  • SpursFaninSanDiego

    The only positive I can think of is that Pop has 24 hours to make adjustments. 1) how to get tony involved when lebron covers him 2) how to get out shooters open looks against heat adjusted defense.

    When we played the Pistons in the 07′, Pop stayed awake for 36 hours hours game planning, tweaking, adjusting with the mindset “we will not lose game 7″.

    I’ve never been more crushed in my 17 years as a Spurs fan, but I won’t lose faith until we’re absolutely done.

    Go Spurs Go

  • Len

    Spurs played Pistons in ’05.

  • SpursFaninSanDiego

    Thanks.

    Yes, I meant 05′. Any valuable insight besides year correction?

  • Jay

    The X Factor here is the emotional and physical effect on the players. It’s one thing to lose by a large margin where the starters sit early and be fresh for the next game but this game went to overtime and took everything from the Spurs especially Duncan who looked really tired. And to think that they are playing on the road.

  • Len

    yw. My insight would be to avoid the national media for at least the next 2 days. There’s no sensible reason to subject yourself to the avalanche of overreacting and bias that is coming.

  • Melbourne Spur

    I get all that, but if you don’t have adrenalin enough for game 7 of the Finals to get you through, then something is wrong. Injury is one thing, but you should have the energy to compete well. Tony said he was cramping toward the end of the game, but I think that comes down to in-game management rather than a carry-on effect from the previous game.
    So long as pop gets guys appropriate rest where possible (if possible) then they should be ok to go I would think.
    Hate to say it but Tim may have the rest of his life to recover. Manu also. I don’t believe fatigue will be a factor for us any more than it will them. Here’s hoping anyway.

  • LePass

    The tank is empty. Game 7 will be a blow out for the Heat. Remember 2006 and that ill-advised Manu foul…here we go again. Next year will be better for Spurs. No Manu, no Blair, No Neal, and hopefully no Splitter (this guy is just showing how mentally he is weak). Some solid FA and a solid backup PG and backup SF. Future is bright though.

  • clennon

    Just watch. Spurs will keep it sorta close for 2.5 to 3 quarters, but the Heat will steadily pull away, winning by 12-15 points.

  • bob mcgraw

    good job spurs you just handed the heat and james the championship. this was one of the worst games ive ever seen period.

  • Thunderfan

    Thunder fan here…but been pulling for the Spurs all series. Just have to say, even I was screaming at the T.V. when Pop sat Duncan during key moments down the stretch; simply didn’t get it, can only imagine what diehard Spurs fans were feeling. Also, why was Parker on the bench when I believe the Spurs were inbounding the ball w/ about 8 seconds left…couldn’t a timeout have been called to insert him in the game?? Pop, IMO, is the best active coach, but sure don’t get some of his cruch-time decisions last night. That being said, there IS one more chance for you guys to win it all tomorrow night, and I cannot wait to watch!

  • Graham

    Just make sure you show up if that isn’t the case

  • Jimbo

    The decision not to call TO in the last few seconds is a tough one. Parker looked gassed, but then again with the decline of Manu there is really no other way the Spurs can get a quality shot off the dribble. Trying to get a quality shot off against Miami’s set defense in five seconds is a tall order either way- I guess that was Pop’s thinking.

    Pop’s Vogel decision is harder to defend. I think Duncan could stay with Bosh, plus it’s not like Bosh is a great 3 point shooter. Vogel’s decision can be better defended I think because the Pacers were up 1 rather than 2 and Hibbert may be less mobile than Duncan.

    I think Pop is one of the greatest coaches of all time- maybe the greatest. But that Duncan decision looks disastrous, especially if Game 7 is lost.

    That said, Leonard and Parker were the only two Spurs that had good games, and I think (haven’t seen box score) that the Spurs shot poorly on 3s while MIA was red hot on 3’s. I won’t get all gloomy about Game 7.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Splitter scored on all of his only two attempts. And he wasn’t shooting FT’s for a win. Lay off the guy already.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Yeah he acts as if he did everything when they win. He is not a big 3. Especially on this heat team.

  • Titletown99030507d

    This is what HOF’ers are made of. Duncan will reach deep down and Parker as well and as for Ginobili if he sees the minutes he got last night he will not play like he did last night. He’s going to shoot instead of trying those long side to side passes. Green and Neal can easily pop out and have a game 3 game.
    We have too many weapons and too much experience to crawl up in fetal position and give up and die. NO WAY!

    Timmy, Manu, and Parker have been there before not like this but they have.

    Detroit game 7. At home but it’s still a game 7.

  • Titletown99030507d

    I agree I think once the players step on the court they’ll be going for blood. and won’t let up.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Now you now how I have felt throughout the last few years with this guy. Sometimes I would scratch my head on the rotations he would trot out onto the court. But he’s not dead to me. He’s still the leader of this crew and I for once have faith he will lead our guys to that game 7 win.

  • Titletown99030507d

    It’ll be here before you know it. Hold on it’s going to be a ride you won’t forget. Spurs win. Parker, Green, Kawhi will have a big day and Manu will not affect the out come. He will play error free ball.

  • Titletown99030507d

    And Manu was a stud. He was Sampson then he cut his hair. He played like a madman on a mission when his hair was long.

  • Titletown99030507d

    I agree no ESPN for me at this point.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Excuse me? At least Splitter scored on the only 2 possessions they gave him. That allowed the Spurs to stay in contention. Check yourself dude.

  • Titletown99030507d

    When I woke up this morning still felt a little sadness but quickly realized hey we have another game to play. GSG!

  • cpowers29

    you’re a chump. go jump on ESPN’s blog if you aren’ta Spurs fan. You will be in good company there.

  • LePass

    I think you didn’t watch the last year WCF and this year’s series against the heat.

  • ghlaker

    Lakers fan totally rooting for Spurs…couldn’t believe Duncan wasn’t in…twice. Popovich tried it the Vogel way once, got the same result. I was sure he wouldn’t do it a second time, yet he did. Definitely on Popovich who is easily the best active coach in the league. Duncan may not have secured those rebounds, but you have to give yourself the chance.
    Hoping the Spurs can bounce back from this and win game 7!

  • Jon Richey

    You’re pathetic. Do me a favor and never go to another game. The Spurs don’t need fair weather fans like you.

  • Jon Richey

    I’m depressed but I still believe.

  • Jimbo

    You mean that Miami-SA series that is tied 3-3 right now? And they make jokes about the French being surrender monkeys . . .

  • Jimbo

    Ah, my apologies LePass. I read too fast and didn’t realize you were referring to Splitter and not the Spurs as a whole. I like Splitter as a player but expecting him to be a star is unrealistic. He will get paid by someone this offseason- he definitely has his uses.

  • clennon

    Hey, I’ll be thrilled if I’m wrong. But the Spurs winning game 7 just doesn’t feel like the script to me. Lebron using the Spurs as a stepping stone to building his legacy and then us having to listen to all the talking heads bloviate about the greatness of Lebron feels like the script to me. The Spurs had a chance to write their own ending last night, but they gagged it away.

  • clennon

    Spurs fan always thinking they’re going to win.

  • Crystakke

    Tony should’ve pulled the ball up on that fast break instead of passing to Manu. 30 seconds to go, 4 point lead. Milk the clock. And Duncan should’ve been on the floor for the last possession. But what can you do? Win Game 7. In a blowout.

  • Bear

    Pop coached a bad game. He’s the best coach in the league and one of the all time greats but he had a bad game. We didn’t win so there’s no way to give “none of the credit to Pop”.

    And to titletown… it was more about how good we played with Boris in the lineup than how bad Tiago was. Seemed obvious watching the game.

  • clennon

    Nah, I wouldn’t be in good company there. I know how to spell.

  • Graham

    That’s the thing. Nothing in this series has gone according to script. The script saying the Heat are destined to win is actually a good thing.