Increase your intake of fish oil, empty your bladder regularly, breathe slowly, and get a good regular sleep pattern. You now have 36 hours to practice such routines before the single greatest event in all of sports takes place on Thursday night: Game 7. After the most entertaining and exhilarating NBA basketball game in recent memory, Miami survived to force Game 7 Thursday night in Miami. Lebron James took over in the fourth quarter, as we all knew he needed to, without his headband I might add, and Ray Allen made his paycheck in one miraculous shot with under 6 seconds left in the 4th quarter. While the story was the Ray Allen 3-pointer, which sent the game to overtime and the fact that the world had waited 5-plus games for an "NBA Classic", there are several key factors that led Miami to come back in the waning seconds of regulation in Game 6 to force a winner-take all game Thursday night.
For the San Antonio Spurs, the game came down to fundamentals. The "Big Fundamental", Tim Duncan, carried San Antonio through much of the game with 30 points and 17 rebounds. He started the game on fire, shooting 7-7, and kept the tempo up for the Spurs. With Tony Parker having a rough shooting night (6-23), it seemed almost as though Duncan was having his "marquee" game that Parker, Ginobli, and Green had in San Antonio’s previous 3 wins, respectively. Duncan worked the offense from the post and San Antonio’s previous success shooting in the series forced Miami to defend Duncan with only one defender. Advantage Duncan. Despite Duncan pulling the weight for San Antonio for much of the first three quarters, with some help from Kawhi Leonard, the rest of the Spurs were unable to close out Miami late in the 4th quarter with the Larry O’ Brian trophy just beyond arm’s reach, literally. The post-game staffers were on the sidelines prepared to rope off the stage, David Stern had all but left his seat for the trophy presentation, and perhaps the most significant insignificant fundamental in the sport of basketball took it all away from San Antonio: free throws. San Antonio’s inability to make free throws with the game on the line is the sole reason that this column isn’t titled "2013 NBA Finals Wrap Up." Free throws gave life back to Miami when fans began to leave the arena. Free throws are the reason that the Larry O’ Brian trophy remains finely polished and untouched for 48 more hours. In the final 30 seconds of regulation, San Antonio missed two critical free throws, one by Manu Ginobli and the other by Kawhi Leonard, to deliver the final knockout blow to this resilient and battle-tested Miami Heat team. With 19 seconds in regulation and Kawhi Leonard at the line, Miami’s chances at a comeback were resting in his hands. You could sense the anxiety and agony in the building leading up to that first free throw with San Antonio already ahead 94-92. Miss. A collective cheer/exhale/defibrillating moment ensued from the Miami crowd as there was life in the American Airlines Arena. With Leonard making the 2nd free throw, the lead was stretched to a reasonable 3-points and Ray Allen did the rest with an unbelievable corner three to tie it up with 5.2 seconds remaining. The San Antonio Spurs pride themselves on being that "team’s team", but their inability to focus on the moment and remain cool under pressure, 30 seconds away from the franchise’s fifth NBA title, gave Miami life and all the momentum leading up to Game 7 tomorrow night.
On Miami’s end, it seemed that everything went right when it needed to, subsequently went downhill at the last minute, only to somehow go right again when the clock read 00:00. We were all waiting for "that moment" from Miami to push the tempo and play with the desperation of knowing that their season was coming to an end unless they did something to stop it. At the beginning of the 2nd half, we didn’t see it. As the third quarter was coming to a close, we were still waiting. Fourth quarter begins: game on Miami. The Heat started the 4th quarter shooting 4-4 from the field and showed San Antonio and the world that this was not going to be a championship countdown as it was for Miami in the 4th quarter of Game 5 in the 2012 Finals. San Antonio fought hard and aggressive throughout the game but the iconic image from Game 5 occurred on a seemingly irrelevant aspect of the game. Lebron James went up for a dunk in the low post and in an attempt to block the shot, Tim Duncan ripped off his headband. Due to several mysterious reasons including feeling relieved that the tight headband was finally off of his head, no longer showing a lack of insecurity about his receding hairline, or a multitude of other headband-related reasons, Lebron James turned it on and refused to watch the San Antonio Spurs hoist the Larry O’ Brian trophy on his home court. Lebron entered the 4th quarter with 13 points shooting an abysmal 3-10, but finished the night posting up his fourth triple-double in the playoffs with an impressive 32points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds. Lebron proved to the world that he is no longer "too small" for any moment and that all that matters today is putting ring #2 on his finger.
With a quick turnaround of under 48 hours total between Games 6 and 7, San Antonio needs to focus on resting after playing a grueling Game 6. Game plan and strategy are not nearly as important leading up to tomorrow night as every team has shown its true colors at some point in this series. San Antonio needs to focus on getting past the devastation of losing Game 6 with the championship in their sights, and rest their stars for one final, winner-take-all, last hoorah for these San Antonio Spurs tomorrow night in what is to be a great follow up to a classic NBA Finals Game 6.