NBA Finals: Parker vs. James comes down to a big break
MIAMI – Tony Parker against LeBron James with Game 1 of the NBA final on the line, a creative offensive player against a dominant physical presence, the most important player on either team likely to decide the game on a one-on-one situation.
And what turned it?
Parker stumbled and bumbled and fumbled, nearly doing the splits falling down one time, James never more than an arm’s length away before being the shot clock by a split second for the game-winning basket as the San Antonio Spurs beat the Miami Heat 92-88 to open the best-of-seven series at the American Airlines Arena.
“We were very fortunate,” was how San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich described Parker’s shot with less than six seconds to go.
“It looked like he lost it two or three times … but he stuck with it, he kept competing … he got it up there on the rim.”
Referees needed an extensive review of the shot to see if it had beat the shot clock, there was concrete evidence to rule it hadn’t and it counted.
“It felt forever, too,” said Parker. “It was a crazy play, I thought I lost the ball three or four times, it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to,” said Parker.
“t was one of those shots that will go down in lore, not for how beautifully scripted it was; quite the contrary.
“He had LeBron on him and almost being blitzed,” said Manu Ginobili. “So he really had to step through it and jump forward to be able to let it go.
“It was an unbelievable shot.”
Parker’s shot finished a dominant fourth quarter for the gifted point guard, who had 10 of his 21 points while playing the entire quarter. He ended up playing 40 minutes with 21 points and six assists and the most vital stat was his zero turnovers.
“We understand that when it comes down to it, LeBron is going to be their best defender,” said Tim Duncan. “They are going to continue to put him on Tony, we have to continue to execute, continue to attack and just try to get (Parker) as much space as possible.”
The Heat has to feel like the game got away from them through their doing.
James had a triple double – 18 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists – but they were never able to seize control of the game. Chris Bosh ended up taking four three-pointers – the same number as Ray Allen, one more than Dwayne Wade and twice as many as Mike Miller and they seemed discombobulated at times.
“We had some poor possessions … there were a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes, three of them (turnovers) in the fourth quarter. And probably three or four possessions where we didn’t get organized … and the ball didn’t go where it needed to go.”
Kawhi Leonard, the second year swingman who was the primary defender on James, did an admirable job. He got plenty of help, the Spurs walled off the paint when James tried to drive and San Antonio will live with his 18 points.
“Nobody is going to stop LeBron James for all the reasons that we know but to try and make him work and maybe deny a catch here and there is important,” said Popovich. “Kawhi did the best job he could.”