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On the brink of winning their fifth NBA title in the Tim Duncan era, the San Antonio Spurs did not only cough up their best shot of taking down the defending champions in Miami, they may have already lost Game 7 too.
Up five with just under 30 seconds left in regulation, the Spurs trotted out Duncan-less on Miami’s following possession. After LeBron misfired on his first three-point attempt, San Antonio was a defensive rebound away of just about wrapping up the Finals, with the potential of going up three possessions resulting from some made free-throws with around 20 seconds remaining.
Then, everything fell apart.
Miami corralled the offensive board and the ball found its way into James’ hands for a three pointer that the entire building knew was going in. Miami down 2, 20 seconds left.
The next Spurs possession should have been a simple inbound play to one of their better free-throw shooters, preferably Tony Parker. Instead, Duncan was forced to allow Kawhi Leonard to take the two most pressure-filled shots in his young rookie career.
Leonard clanked the first, and sunk the second.
Up three with 20.2 seconds remaining, the Spurs were still in a win-or-draw situation had Miami executed a three pointer.
San Antonio played sound defense on LeBron’s three point attempt, leaving the ball–and Miami’s season–dangling in the air as one final rebound could shut the curtain on the 2013 NBA season. The Spurs were again, Duncan-less, and one defensive rebound away from shutting the books and sending LeBron James home with a 1-3 record in the Finals.
Chris Bosh pulled down yet another Miami offensive board and smartly found the best three-point shooter in NBA history sitting in the corner, waiting to do what he does best.
Instead of fouling Bosh and turning the last five seconds of regulation into a free-three shooting contest (Miami had no timeouts left), San Antonio stood put and left the fate of Game 6 in Ray Allen’s hands. You guessed it, he delivered.
95-95, overtime here we come. The rest was instant history.
If you are the Spurs, how do you comeback physically and mentally to play a Game seven on the exact court you let the Larry O’Brien trophy slip away just 48 hours ago?
The Media headlines were already written. The yellow rope that acts as a safe-haven for the NBA champion at the end of the clinching game was laid out across the sidelines, waiting to be pulled by on-looking security. The NBA Finals MVP ballots were already in. Heat fans were exiting the arena to avoid the devastating moment of sitting in the stands as the opponent celebrates in the city they call home.
Many will say that if there is a team with the capability and discipline that is required to come back from such a draining loss, it would be these Gregg Popovich-led Spurs. It would be first-ballot hall-of-famer and arguably the best power forward to ever play the game, Tim Duncan, and his two companions Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. It would be the team that, if it weren’t for a couple of unlucky bounces and missed calls, should be planning their celebration parade in Texas as we speak.
Game 6 was one of the best Finals game this generation of basketball has ever seen. Basketball fans can only wish for the same in Game 7.
San Antonio will have to come back more focused than ever as it will have to conquer a feat no other Finals team has in the new 2-3-2 format- win a Game 7 on the road.
After emptying the tank in a heart-breaking loss, the Spurs will have to do the same again and look to the basketball Gods to reverse their fortune.