First off, congratulations to the Miami Heat, who secured back-to-back championships with Thursday’s 95-88 Game 7 win over the San Antonio Spurs. And congratulations to San Antonio, a team that pushed Miami to the brink and back. Ultimately, though, the better team, with the best player, prevailed.
What went right for Miami?
Well, LeBron James. He’s a 4-time regular season MVP and now a 2-time NBA Finals MVP. Sure, LeBron had his struggles in this series, but, boy, did he rise to the occasion in Game 7. 37 points, 12-23 FGs, 5-10 from 3, 8-10 from the foul line, 12 rebounds and a whole lot of terrific defense on San Antonio’s No. 1 guy, Tony Parker, who finished with 10 points (all in the first half) on 3-12. Parker’s 4 assists was his lowest total since Game 4 of the Golden State series, and LeBron’s five 3’s was his highest total since March 29 against the Hornets, err Pelicans.
When the mid-range game is there for LeBron and Dwyane Wade, you don’t have much of a chance against this Miami team. Not only does that open up the floor for Miami’s shooters — Shane Battier finished 6-8 from 3 last night — but it also opens up their driving lanes.
Think about this: Miami got 0 combined points out of Chris Bosh, an 8-time NBA All Star; Ray Allen, whose 3 in Game 6 to force OT is the only reason this game was played; and Mike Miller, who knocked in seven 3’s in Miami’s Game 5 close-out win over the Thunder in last year’s Finals. Yet they still won.
What went wrong for San Antonio?
It has to start with Parker. As good as he was in Game 1, he was just not a factor in the second half of Game 7. How much of that is due to his injured hamstring, how much is due to fatigue and how much is due to his being guarded by the best perimeter defender in today’s NBA … who knows. Probably a healthy mix of the three.
With James guarding Parker, Gregg Popovich, in many cases, used Manu Ginobili as the facilitator. Pop even pulled Parker for Gary Neal down 92-88 late, in a possession that ultimately ended with a Ginobili turnover.
Neal and Danny Green, the darlings of Game 3 when they combined for 51 points, finished a combined 3-9 with 10 points in Game 7. Green seemed to disappear in the moment; in Games 6 and 7, after averaging five 3’s per in the first 5 games of the series, he made 2-11 from deep. Green’s biggest miss came down 85-82, after a stolen inbound pass following a Manu triple, which he rimmed out.
Ginobili had the three ugly turnovers late — one fumbled pass in front of the Spurs sideline, an errant throw in the half-court set and the aforementioned forced jump pass to Tim Duncan — but, in all, he put together a solid bounce-back performance after his miserable 8-turnover Game 6. He tallied 18 points on 6-12 FGs, 5 assists and secured the best +/-, +6, of any San Antonio player.
Duncan (24 points, 12 rebounds and 8-8 from the FT line) and Kawhi Leonard (19 points, 16 rebounds) were the Spurs’ only consistent sources of offense, aside from Ginobili. But Duncan will remember his missed hook shot, followed by a missed tip, with Shane Battier pinned on a fast-break post possession with less than a minute to play for some time; he converts, and the game’s tied at 90. (LeBron helped ice the cake on Miami’s next possession with a mid-range jumper past the right elbow.)
The Spurs, the league’s best passing team, tallied 16, 29 and 21 assists in their Game 1, 3 and 5 wins, respectively; they had 16, 21, 13 and 13 assists in their Game 2, 4, 6 and 7 losses. From 3, San Antonio sank 32 in their 3 wins but only 29 in their 4 losses.
What’s next for this blog?
Good question. With the season over, I won’t stop, at least not like I did in the 2.5 months before this series started. I’ll publish posts this weekend on what’s next for Miami and San Antonio, and hopefully compile some fairly reasonable take on the NBA Draft and the start of free agency.
I appreciate all 10 of you who will read this post. Completely justifies the effort.
Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.