Spurs had chance to win despite historically bad night
MIAMI — The San Antonio Spurs left a title on the table, but it slipped away only after one of the worst performances we’ve ever seen from their Hall-of-Fame backcourt. Manu Ginobili’s eight turnovers were a career worst, and Tony Parker has never shot as terribly as he did last night at that kind of volume (TP has never hit a lower percentage of his shots when he’s taken at least 23 attempts). It was an historically awful night for two of the Spurs’ stalwarts, so depending on which side of the fence you find yourself sitting, it gave you leeway to spin the story in any different direction.
San Antonio blew a great chance, but it also nearly overcame a terrible evening to win title No. 5.
If you ask the Spurs, they seem to be OK. It was a rough conclusion to an incredible game, and the atmosphere in the locker room was one of borderline devastation, but there was a sense of perspective from this team at today’s practice. Even after a late end to last night’s game, the team went out to dinner to try and bring the level of emotions back to a more normal state.
“We shared histories and what happened in different games, and sharing stuff like that when I was with the national team, when we were up 7 (points) and lost in 35 seconds, the European championship,” Parker said. “You just share those moments and try to see what you can do better and prepare for Game 7. So it was definitely a great dinner, and I think everybody understands that we have a great opportunity.”
It’s difficult to maintain a clear mind in this situation, especially for fans. The title was there, and it was ripped away at the last second. It’s a cruel and terrible feeling, but in the same vein, you could argue that San Antonio was in that position because it played horribly on the offensive end. With one game remaining in the NBA season, a single Spurs-ian effort can still result in another ring.
And then, there’s the Heat. Miami hit 11 of the 19 threes it put up last night, and in a stranger turn of events, won the assist battle 23-13. The last time the Spurs dished out 13 assists or fewer was Feb. 21 of 2012. This was as out of character a San Antonio performance as you’ll ever see, and the game was theirs to be had.
On top of that, Dwyane Wade was terrible in the second half. Physically, he looks like a mess. We’ve said this before during the series, and he’s blown up in our faces. But in Game 6 he looked spent. Now, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Wade rebound with a typical clutch performance. It might take a shot of cortisone or two, or something in that capacity, but it’s certainly possible. And he wasn’t the only one. Miami as a whole is beat up. The Spurs aren’t the only team reeling in this series.
LeBron James said as much last night, they spent everything they had to win last night’s game, and it paid off. But with all the energy left out on the court, tomorrow’s battle will be primal.
I picked the Spurs to win the Finals in 7 games, and at this point I have no reason to stray from that thought. After losing the way they did last night, I can understand the logic behind picking the Heat. But when you take into account the effort it took for Miami to take Game 6, the playing field is probably more even than most think.
Game 7 will be as pure as basketball gets. There are no more strategy and personnel adjustments that will surprise either side, and it’s essentially turned into a battle of wills as the final game of the NBA season approaches. Tomorrow night will be basketball’s ultimate showcase, and what ensues will likely be a street fight.
Both teams are tactically brilliant, yet completely exhausted. Both know they can beat the other, but neither has an idea of what will happen.
If you’ve watched this season from start to finish, tomorrow night is your reward. The NBA Finals have been alternating back and forth since Game 1, when the Spurs opened with a victory. The trend has yet to be broken, and the rhythm hasn’t yet completely changed. So if you’re reading the storylines and the blueprints, and you believe there’s legitimate consistency in both, then, in a vacuum, San Antonio’s Game 6 loss shouldn’t be a huge surprise. The Spurs lost, just as they had after their two prior wins.
The process has stayed the same, and, if you believe in the trend, so have the expectations. After Tuesday night, it’s now the Spurs’ turn.
Stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com.