Lynne Sladky, AP
MIAMI — There’s really no way to top what happened Tuesday night.
LeBron James quieted his haters again in one of the most stunning NBA Finals games ever. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker failed appallingly for the only time in their Finals careers. Ray Allen, the oldest player on the court, ripped a page from his previous championship experience.
So how about a Game 7?
The entertainment finally, and sadly, ends Thursday at American Airlines Arena. Someone will be ecstatic, someone will be distraught, and there’s no guarantee the despondent Ginobili will even make it to the arena.
After the Spurs guard dragged himself to the interview room in the aftermath of San Antonio’s 103-100 overtime loss Tuesday, Ginobili used the phrases “bad,” “very bad,” “very tough” (twice), “it hurts,” “bad moment,” “really bad moment” and “I’m devastated.”
Then he gave interviews in Spanish for another group of reporters. Transcripts were not available, unfortunately.
How did this all happen?
Plenty of Miami Heat fans had already headed for the exits in Game 6 with their team down five in the final minute of regulation. NBA officials brought out the yellow rope to ring the court for the postgame ceremony. The championship trophy was carried out from its hiding place deep inside the arena and was waiting in the wings. MVP voting had already been done by reporters and broadcasters (an unofficial poll — it was looking good for Duncan).
Then Allen’s three-pointer with 5.2 seconds left changed everything. And ruined the night of more Spurs than just Ginobili.
It’s hard not to think the Spurs maxed out in Game 6, with 37-year-old Duncan giving all he could, 35-year-old Ginobili looking fatigued again after a brilliant Game 5 effort, and Parker making only six of 23 shots.
A day later, the Spurs claimed they could recover. What else could they say, however old and dejected they might have been feeling?
Historians went deep into their research to find out just how meaningful this win was for the Heat, which trailed after three quarters, 75-65.
Only one other team fought off elimination in the NBA Finals by overcoming a double-digit deficit going into the fourth quarter, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Down 3-1 in 1967, the San Francisco Warriors outscored Philadelphia by 20 in the fourth to win Game 5, 117-109.
No penetrating analysis was needed to ascertain what Game 6 meant to James.
He was 5.2 seconds from falling to 1-3 in championship rounds. Hard to imagine his on-court reputation, along with that of the Heat’s Big Three, not taking a severe pounding if Miami had lost.
Game 7 is not just 48 minutes (or more) for James. It’s the most recent way his name can be defined. And it’ll last the whole summer, if not longer.
“I understand the moment,” James said Wednesday about Game 7. “I’ve been pretty relaxed, though. I’ve been pretty relaxed throughout the playoffs. I’m going to be antsy, I’m going to be excited. I’m going to have some butterflies. I’ll be nervous. Everything. That’s how I should be.
“The moment is going to be grand. I’m happy to be a part of it.”
James was huge in the fourth quarter of Game 6, scoring 16 points on seven-for-11 shooting. Even when he missed on a hurried three-point shot with 7.9 seconds left in regulation, Chris Bosh took the rebound and found Allen in the right corner.
Overtime was a complete mess for the Spurs, who scored only five points and nothing in the final 2:42. Parker missed all four of his shots and a free throw. Duncan missed his only shot, a running layup. Ginobili had two turnovers in the final 45 seconds.
Not the stuff the Spurs built their proud franchise upon. Certainly not the way they earned four championships since 1999.
Several Spurs players went to dinner after the game ended in the early hours of Wednesday. It wasn’t all doom and gloom. Parker told a been-there, done-that story of being on the French national team and losing a seven-point lead with 35 seconds left in the European Championship.
Food is presumably more enjoyable after winning a championship trophy, but Duncan thought the get-together served a purpose.
“Yeah, it helped,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “The other option is a bunch of us go back to our rooms and sit in our rooms and sit there by ourselves and beat yourself up. So it’s always good to be around teammates and kind of get some stuff out in the open. We did exactly that. We’ll be ready to rock.”
They better be really, really ready to rock. No NBA team has won a Game 7 on the road in the Finals since Washington in 1978.
Fittingly, Allen was the last player to talk to reporters after Game 6. It was 1:21 a.m. Wednesday when he finished.
Who knows what will happen Thursday? Who really, truly knows?
©2013 Los Angeles Times
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