NBA Finals, Game 6: One for the ages sets up more drama
Please read this instead of the disjointed gamer that’s in the paper.
And I plan to perhaps stop by Mike’s when I’m done here; the regular fare might not be there ‘til 9 or so.
What an epic night.
MIAMI – It’s perfect. It really is.
One game, winner-take-all, legacies and a championship on the line, a game that will have to be indescribably good in order to surpass the one that set it up.
The Miami Heat, abundantly talented and infuriatingly inconsistent at times, got up off the canvass in Game 6 of the NBA final, scoring a 103-100 overtime win over the San Antonio Spurs in what turned into the most dramatic game at the most dramatic of times, setting up a Game 7 Thursday to wrap up the series.
“You know, they're the best two words in team sports,” said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra.
A series of shockingly big shots – a Ray Allen game-tying corner three with five seconds to go in regulation, a LeBron James three that set it up – and a series of mind-numbing Spurs mistakes turned the final minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime into one of the most compelling stretches of basketball in a big game in recent history.
James simply willed his way into the game after scuffling through three quarters. He had 14 points going into the fourth quarter and finished with 32 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, answering doubters that were ready to pounce.
“This is the best game I’ve ever been part of,” said James.
And he was central to it, as one would expect.
He was isolated continually on various defenders through the fourth quarter and attacked them relentlessly. He wanted the ball, the shots, the attention.
And the responsibility.
He took the ball, made the shots, relished in the attention.
And accepted the responsibility.
“The ups and downs, the roller coaster, the emotions, good and bad throughout the whole game, to be a part of something like this is something you would never be able to recreate once you're done playing the game,” said James.
“And I'm blessed to be a part of something like this. And I'm happy about the way we dug down and was able to get a win. It didn't look like we could muster up at some point in the game.”
But the Heat needed a break just to get to the overtime.
The Allen game-tying shot came when the Spurs couldn’t corral a James miss, Chris Bosh grabbed the loose ball and found Allen in the corner for yet another huge shot by the most prolific three-point shooter in NBA history.
“If it's not me taking the shot, I have no problem with Ray take that shot, man,” said James. “He's got ice water in his veins.
“Ray can be 0-for-99 in a game and if he get an open look late in the game, it's going down.
That's just the confidence he have in himself. It's the preparation that he prepares for every game. It's the confidence that we have in him. We seen it before.”
The Spurs have to be kicking themselves for letting the game get away in a series of moments.
Kawhi Leonard, his team up two with less than 14 seconds to go, missed one of two free throws to set up Allen’s game-tying shot.
Manu Ginobili, so good in Game 5, so bad in Game 6, committed two horrific turnovers in the overtime.
And even the seemingly unshakable Gregg Popovich will come in for some criticism for not having his team foul before the Allen game-tying shot.
It will cause second-guessing, second-thoughts and angst.
“I have no clue how we're going to be re-energized,” said Ginobili, who had eight turnovers in the game. “I'm devastated. But we have to. There's no Game 8 afterwards.
“We're going to have to play our best game, even better than today. Shoot better, better defence, less turnovers in my case, but, yeah, there's no secret recipe for bouncing back.”
The loss spoiled a marellous throwback performance by 37-year-old Spurs elder statesman Tim Duncan, who had 30 points in a brilliant outing as he chases his fifth championship ring.
But the help he so desperately needed did not come, Ginobili reverted to his early-series form and had just nine points and Danny Green, whose three-point shooting brilliance had carried the Spurs, had only three points. The series deserves the drama of a seventh game, though.
No team has won two in a row in the first six, there have been a series of lopsided results, great games by a handful of individuals and having it come down to one night is a perfect end.
It will either be the fifth championship for Duncan and the Spurs since 1999 or the second in three years for the so-called Big Three of the Heat – James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.