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.


  • Bear

    You are wrong about Splitter. He played 8 minutes and was -13. +/- isn’t everything, but in this case it was obvious we were getting abused when Tiago was in the game. Every run the heat made in regulation was with Tiago and Manu in the game.

    I like Tiago and he’s played well overall but last night’s game was not for him and hopefully Tim stays out of foul trouble because game 7 isn’t for him either.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Are We Talking About Making Shots In Game 6 The One I Hope You Watched.

  • Bear

    I am “devastated” (internet devastated not life devastated) after this game so I want to vent. Don’t read it you don’t want to but these were the key stats and moments for me…

    * Tiago Splitter played 8 minutes and was -13

    * Manu played 35 minutes and was -21 (-21!). He had 8 TOs and played quite possibly the worst game of his career. Honestly, it was as if we were playing 4 on 6 when he was in the game.

    * The lineup of Tony, Kawhi, Green, Boris and Tim dominated the Heat. I’ll call them the “Good Lineup”. The “Bad lineup” included Manu and sometimes Tiago. Here’s a timeline…

    Good lineup – played the last 5 minutes of the 1st half and got us the 6 point halftime lead.
    Bad lineup – started second half and gave up 6 point lead.
    Good lineup – came in the 3rd quarter and dominated. Built a 13 point lead.
    Bad lineup – came in at very end of 3rd quarter and lost us three points so we were up 10 after 3.
    (Here is the key moment for me. It was obvious the Bad Lineup was going to lose this game for us but Pop left them in)
    Bad Lineup – Started 4th quarter and IMMEDIATELY gave up a ten point lead.

    * Pop takes Tim out when we are up 5 with 28 seconds left. Heat get on offensive rebound and make a three.

    *Pop takes Tim out again when we are up 3. Heat get offensive rebound and Ray Allen ties the game.

    * Missed key free throws.

  • Jon Richey

    Yeah, you’re right. The Spurs and their fans should fold like cheap suits when faced with adversity. We should all just throw up our hands and say, “well, we’re ******.” Maybe you should go comment on the Heat blog so you can give up the second things look tough like the fans leaving the game and then trying to get back in last night. Meanwhile all the real Spurs fans will be here. If we lose, we lose, and I’ll give the Heat the credit for being the better team if we do, but I’m going to believe we will win until that happens. The Spurs have earned that trust from their fans.

  • clennon

    What you’re talking about is faith, not trust, and I’m not a religious person. Religion is for chumps. Whether I believe the Spurs are going to win or lose has absolutely nothing to do with the eventual outcome. That said, what I “believe” is that the Spurs pissed away their chance to win this series last night and now they have little to nothing in the tank. Doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.

  • defense is fun

    dont matter who wins the finals this year, the nba fans are the real winners……….one of the most excitinge finals i’ve seen………..and i grew up watching jordan win 6 titles.

  • NYC

    That’s what I’m talking about.
    GO SPURS GO!

  • GFoyle33

    That’s right! Normally, with a game as devastating as last night was, you’re screwed because it’s over, you don’t have another bite at the apple.

    But the Spurs, Coach Pop, and Manu (?) have a second chance to make things right again. If the Heat go into front-runner mode again, it might even be easy (although I doubt that). Redemption!

    Hope springs eternal!

  • NYC

    Well said. It ain’t over til it’s over.

  • NYC

    Yes, they gave away a great opportunity to clinch it last night. There’s no question the team had an uncharacteristic collapse and Pop made some questionable, to say the least, coaching.

    But that doesn’t mean it was their one and only opportunity. They’ve played an entire season of basketball (I would count the previous two seasons as well) to get to this point. They’ve played an entire series w Miami going back and forth, adjusting and readjusting. I think they’ve earned a little faith not to count them out.

    For me, this is an exciting–no, THE MOST exciting–moment that has been THREE YEARS IN THE MAKING. We’ve gone from the defensive juggernaut of the past to an offensive juggernaut w average defense two seasons ago to a slightly lesser but still elite offense w much improved defense last year to now a balanced offensively AND defensively elite team.

    I can’t wait to see what surprises this team has for us next. There is no better time than now to be a Spurs fan!

    GO SPURS GO!!

  • NYC

    Lol. Touche’!

  • Graham

    Anyone on the team question the decision? It worked fine the first time, only Wade ripping the ball out of Kawhi’s hands and a broken play led to that LeBron 2nd try Three. Does duncan get that board over Bosh? Do they get an Allen 3 off a switch because Duncan can’t keep up on a switch?

    We have the benefit of hindsight. Pop does not, and his decisions made sense. Losing your mind because the Heat made plays and we didn’t is NOT a reason to blame Coaching.

  • NYC

    The Spurs STILL have a chance to write the ending. You have such little faith in your team. What’s up with that?

    I know last night’s L ripped all our collective hearts out, but I have been with this team since ’99 (and earlier) and have watched them go through the entire gamut. I’ve seen their lowest lows and their highest highs, and let me tell you, when the highs come, it makes everything that came before worthwhile.

    This is a great team that has competed hard all season and played the game the right way. Whatever happens, I am not disappointed as long as they go down swinging with everything they’ve got. THAT’s what makes a champion. The trophy is just extra.

  • AHeights

    Whatever happens, I see the Spurs having one more strong run in them next year. Duncan and Parker will still be All-Stars, Danny Green will be confident, and Kawhi will have even more of an impact. Splitter MUST GO. Only reason to resign him would be Pop being loyal to a fault. Blair will be gone. Spurs need to put Aaron Baynes in the rotation. And they need to sign a real backup point guard. Obviously, Pop has no faith in Patty Mills. And now Joseph is out of the rotation. De Colo needs another year of grooming. Not having a Norris Cole-type to backup Parker has really hurt the team. Maybe the Rockets would be willing to part with Aaron Brooks now that Patrick Beverly has established himself?

  • Graham

    The rotations made sense, bad break with the way that LeBron 3 he bricked bounced, or that Kawhi couldn’t keep it. Look, all you can say is the Heat made one more play than we did.

    We both agree though it’s time to move on and lock in on game 7

  • NYC

    I agree with you: he’s a great coach who had a terrible game. But let’s not lose perspective: it was one game, and on the whole Pop is still a great coach. The best one in the league, in fact. (Way, waaayy better than Spoelstra.) Let’s see how he returns serve next game before we write off a decade and a half of history.

  • spursfanfromla

    0.4 hurt more

  • Bear

    .4 was brutal and a very tough loss but it was the conference semifinals. Last night was 28 seconds away from winning the title. To me, it’s the worst loss I’ve ever stomached for a team I’m a die hard fan of.

  • David Salazar

    wow, are you a bandwagon fan, because you sure sound like one.

  • David Salazar

    does not make you intelligent.

  • Bear

    Yeah I was never trying to paint Pop’s career with last night’s game. He’s definitely the best coach in the NBA and one of the top coaches of all time. I’m not saying last night changes Pop’s legacy at all. But I am saying that in a vacuum, Pop cost us a title.

  • Titletown99030507d

    What are you talking about? He went 2 for 2. And that’s all they gave him. To let you know Timmy got abused as well in the critical parts of the game. If it wasnt for Splitter’s 2 shots made that could turned uglier. I think your reffering to Manu’s play that resulted in points by turnovers. And I still think Ginobili will redeem himself again. Diaw still got abused as well in crunch time by James. What the hell are you watching?

  • Titletown99030507d

    I think Timmy would have got at least one of those rebounds if he was on the court.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Tiago wasnt in the game long enough to warrant that. Diaw still got scored on and fouled whoever he was guarding. I saw the game. thk you very much.

  • David Salazar

    really? without pop as coav
    ch we would not still have duncan, and probably only two titles, maybe none.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Was it his fault Manu was on the floor with him in regards to the +/-? (Sorry Manu). But Tiago wasn’t shooting FT’s for a Championship one of my favorite Spurs was. The dude who is the avatar to your left was. You make it seem Splitter lost the chance for our Championship. In this series he’s not playing as much because of the small ball. What you want Splitter to play instead of Timmy in the small ball? Right. Not even I will lobby for that. He’s more effective against big 4 and 5′s like in the Grizz series. Oh how we soon forget and how some fair weathered fans are unappreciative. Crawl back into your hole and come out when we win the Championship. Seriously?

  • Titletown99030507d

    You don’t know shit about basketball. We would certainly lose with you penning the lineup. Get in your Beemer your mama bought you and ride off on out of town. You can come back when we win the Championship.

  • Titletown99030507d

    yup.

  • AHeights

    Thanks for your mature response and scintillating insight.

  • idahospur

    Beating Miami two games in a row is tough for any team(s). That’s why it hasn’t happened since January or whatever.
    I really want a win. But I have to say that lots of people wrote off the Spurs way before upcoming Thursday. Some were saying that the Spurs got into the Finals only because of injuries in the Western Conference and a lot of luck. But the Spurs are playing in Game 7 against the best Heat team of the last three years. Pop and Spo have been countering each other’s moves all series and its time to show which coach is definite in the Hall of Fame, and which one still has a lot to learn about being a great coach.
    One more game. One more win. One more title.
    GO SPURS GO!

  • chromao

    Game 6 of the 2013 finals was pehaps the worst defeat I have witnessed . Before game 6, the worst were the 0.4sec 2004 game against the Lakers , the 2006 game 7 against Dallas, the 2002 WCF Horry dagger against Sacramento and game 7 of the 2010 finals (when San Antonio is not contending, I tend to root against the Lakers). But none of them were even close to this one, the Spust being in the finals, and SOOO close to the Title.

    I agree with LePass. The Spurs are emotionally drained at having given up the game (and, most probably, the 2013 title) and having now to undertake to play a game 7 on the road, whereas the Heat are sky high in confidence after having gotten what they want (a chance at a game 7) in the most clutching and devastating way.

    Speaking of devastatring defeat, I believe no one had predicted that one day the mental blunder would come from the most unlikely actor: Gregg Popovich . In such close games, I am prepared for the worst: an ill advised crazy play by Manu, a foul on a 3-point shot by Green, a lost layup by whoever, lost free throws, etc. but leaving Duncan on the bench, one of the best and smartest defensive players EVER, on the bench for two consecutive crucial defensive plays !!!!

    In game 7 we have a shot if we play with anger, like Pop said,. But with a controlled anger. My main concern is how we respond if the Heat build a 12 point lead or make a run someheere in the middle of the game, because, we have to admit, they are very strong mentally (for instance, one thing that impressed me in game 6 was that the Heat players would not let frustation creep on teamates when they were being repeatedly called for fouls). Therefore, if we start to pile turnovers and show that “that’s it, I can’t take it anymore” face we had in game 6 against the Lakers in 2004, we are doomed.

    In game 7, I would play Leonard and Green the entire game, resting them on timeouts. Together with Timmy, they are our best defensive players. I would Play Neal as backup of Parker, and rotate Duncan, Splitter and Diaw, giving the most playing time to Duncan. If Manu commits two turnovers in a row, I would substitute him for whoever (even Mcgrady). But I have to admit: I admire you folks, because in my opinion, our chances now are VERY slim. We have to play a near perfect game (limit turnovers, hot hand on 3s, rebounds, etc) and/or hope they just have a bad night and brick some 3s.

    One last comment regarding Manu, I have a guess at what is happening to him: it seems like this year his body is not responding in a timely fashion to his decisions, and as he is surprisingly not injured now, it has perplexed him that he has not being able to jump as high or stretch as far as before. In other words, he has not prepared , as Duncan did, for the twilight of his career. Having said that, I really hope he retires. I have great memories of Manu and he will forever be one of my favorite players, but he has played enough with my ulcers.

  • Kevin Herman

    Yes it was Manu fault he had 8 turnovers and those fueled a lot of easy buckets for the Heat. He was horrendous.

  • STIJL

    In hindsight…would have been smart to foul Bosh before he passed.

  • Graham

    fair enough, but we could have been saying “If we had kept Diaw in, LeBron/Miller/Allen/Battier wouldn’t have gotten open for the 3 he knocked down because Duncan couldn’t keep up on the switch.”

  • Graham

    Absolutely, but 1 second is not a lot of time to go from fighting for the rebound, realizing Bosh has it, and getting to him before he kicks it out.

  • STIJL

    Understand. Was depressed all day. Disengaged with my work. No care attitude. Felt like a punch in the gut by a new boyfriend dating an ex and nothing could be done about it.

    Always said Spurs in 6. Looked every bit to be the case. Can’t fathom or even predict an outcome for game 7. Just hope the players don’t play game seven the same way I feel at this moment.

    De5tiny!!!!! (this year?)

  • clennon

    And you sound like another faithie. This isn’t religion. I don’t have any time for religion. I may have an illogical emotional attachment to the Spurs, but I don’t worship them or “have faith” in them. Sometimes I think they’re going to lose. This is one of those times.

  • clennon

    “The trophy is just extra.” blurf. I think I just puked a little in my mouth.

  • STIJL

    After having to digest this devastating loss for an entire day with the feeling that someone ripped every bit of emotional goodness from my very being. Literally feeling sick to my stomach the entire day. I’ll rant on this and then say no more. Wait for game seven. See if the entire Spurs team is made of fortitude unseen in sports history. And hope they return home with a championship.

    In the annals of basketball history, Greg Popovich will go down as one of the greatest coaches in the world. Deserving of any and every accolade bestowed in the near and far future. And recognize this isn’t (nor is any one person responsible for any loss) saying Pop was to blame for the entirety of this loss.

    But how any sane, intelligent, future hall of fame coach of Pop’s notoriety could leave the foundation of this historic franchise on the bench in a time when all they had to do is secure just (ONE MORE REBOUND)….the legendary hall of fame “best” PF to ever play the game who…oh yeah…garnished 17 boards prior to this moment…is beyond excusable no matter how credited that coach may be.

    If Pop wanted Diaw in the game for purposes of guarding LeBron…understood. But you still leave the best PF of all time who was giving the performance of his life for his age in game six. Not only was that a slap to the face and inconsiderate action on Pop’s part…it also would have left Duncan off the court to enjoy (compared to being on the court) the deserving accolade for a season of rededictaion, hard work and professional commitment to a franchise to winning just one more.

    With that said…if any exception should have been made to having one on the bench…it should have been the player having one of the worst playoff games of their career and not one who had been giving one of their best performance of this series. And (don’t know if it was mentioned in the huddle or not) but the instruction by Pop should have been (if Miami garnishes the rebound) to immediately foul that person to shoot free throws. Which, even if they made both free throws…Spurs still have a one point lead AND MORE IMPORTANTLY…possession of the ball after.
    What I witnessed was NO player even attempting to foul Bosh after the rebound.

    Now will this go on to haunt the Spurs if they lose game seven?…not sure about them…but it will haunt me for a long time.

    So…here’s to praying the Spurs make this right. Play the best game they played this series. Win game seven so the moment that was to be and then snatched away in game six will be nothing but a forgettable memory. Winning cures all sickening moments. It’s the only thing that matters at this point. It’s a one game series.

    Go! Spurs! Go! De5tiny!!!!!

  • STIJL

    If your instructed to during the time out prior to that possession…plenty of time.

  • Melbourne Spur

    I agree that with hindsight it looks like Duncan should have stayed in, but in honesty who’s to say that the ball would have bounced his side and that he could have grabbed it? There are no guarantees that the rebound would have gone to him. Pop had faith in the guys on the floor, and in some situations the ball just falls the wrong way. I re-watched it, and I’m not sure that in that scrambling type play that Duncan would have been in any better position to gather the ball than anyone else was.

    On the fouling issue though, I am all for that. If the ball is beyond the three point line, then the rule has to be “no foul” as they could force themselves into the shooting action and get 3 FTs, but if the ball comes inside into the 2 point area, the rule has to be “FOUL”. No excuse for that not to be drilled into them. Especially after Miller got it the first time and we could have fouled him also. Should definitely have used the time out to let the guys know, if they miss again this time and get the rebound inside the 3, foul the shit out of them.

    It should be an obvious tactic, and I think for Pop to stubbornly say “we don’t do that European move” is a major error. Hopefully he and basketball people worldwide re-think that strategy going forward, because there is no excuse for why Bosh wasn’t shooting FTs down 3 with 6 seconds to go. Would have been tough for us to lose from there, and if that was the plan, then Duncan on court or not shouldn’t have mattered.

    Love Pop, think he is great, but that line of thinking on the foul is wrong, but having Tim out wasn’t necessarily so, as I’d rather defend the 3 and then foul if they get the short rebound.
    Be interested to read others thought?

  • NB

    I agree, but can we please bury the T-Mac talk.

    I don’t think any of those guys other than Blair are capable of giving us any worthwhile burn, but he’s been relegated to the back of the bench. The seven you saw get significant minutes
    last night are who we are rolling with.

  • NB

    One thing I’m not seeing mentioned at all is the fact that we were gifted an extra timeout after the Allen three, but clearly had no plan drawn up with five seconds left.

  • NB

    Negativity does not equal being a bad fan.

    Shit, I said the same thing last night and well into today.

  • neverthehero

    for my money looking beyond the obvious plays that would have sealed the deal. Why the heck didn’t Tony even look to pass at the end of regulation? or just straight up jump shot, the way he drove made me feel sick. the finals are filled with last second shots with a simple pass. Also that’s the spurs mantra. One other Parker play, that jump shot that was Bosh was all over like a Boss, it’s like Tony forgot that he was allowed to pass to another teammate…. The last thing was with 1.9 seconds, why not have Duncan in bound and have Manu, Green, Neal, and Kawhi out there? Spread the floor, run misdirections and pass to the most open man and bam, Neal in those situations, man would have loved for him to shoot it.

  • Len

    I’d rather CoJo or even Nando get a few minutes as opposed to Tony getting worn out so bad that Pop has to use all the timeouts to play offense/defense with him.

    And if the Spurs are down 20 and nobody can hit a shot, why the heck not bring in T Mac? Remember the Steve Kerr game?

  • TheFG21

    It hurts. I know its heartbreaking for us Human. But this Spurs team are Human+. They’re taking it much better than us. Loved their composure this afternoon after practice. For me, I couldn’t sleep till almost 3am last night and I dont think I intended to; my body just gave up. I felt emotionally drained. Only to woke up and feeling the same, in deep psychological pain.

    Lik you, it was a long day at work too, sincerely I couldn’t work at all, its crazy how a game and sports can affect us. I think the worst part is doubting, the uncertainty of whats gonna happen. The history, the statistics, the momentum, ESPN… All of those things are against us. All of those things are saying we’re gonna lose tomorrow.

    Now I’ll say this. F*ck you Magic Johnson, even Bill Simmons seemed human and showed some sadness for the Spurs.

    Anyways guys. We should try to move on and send a massive positive vibe to our team ‘cause they’re gonna need it. Tomorrow night they’ll leave their bodies in the locker room and they will play w/ their Souls.

    GO! SPURS! GO!

  • David Salazar

    never , ever said faith, i have watched every single game for the last 18 years, so i know the spurs will win tomorrow.

  • clennon

    What’s that you were saying?

  • Bob

    I agree. Spoelstra realized he couldn’t win this series with Splitter on the floor and found the best way to take him of the floor. Unfortunately Pop easily obliged.