Which is what will make these next few days that much more damning for the San Antonio Spurs. These flashes of disaster could be damning, especially considering that home teams are 14-3 all-time in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, and none of the three road winners have done so in the era of the 2-3-2 format.
Below is a history of the four series that went to seven games under the 2-3-2 format:
That adds up to one monumental task for San Antonio. If we learned anything at all Tuesday night, it is that even though San Antonio’s core is made up of battle-tested veterans, sometimes there is no substitute for hunger.
“After we came out before we entered the ball [in the fourth quarter], I basically just told myself, give it all I’ve got,” explained James. “If we go down losing, I’m going to go down with no bullets. I’m going all out. I can be satisfied with the results. That’s exactly what I did. I just tried to play both sides of the floor on a high‑intense level until I had no more left in the tank. I looked at Spo a few times, told him I need a timeout so I can get a rest and would just go back on the floor and try to make plays happen. Just try to do whatever it takes for our team to win, man. And that’s what it’s about.”
It’s one thing to bounce back from a loss and be resilient.
It’s quite another to do such a thing in Game 7. On the road. In the NBA Finals. Against a team that has proven time and again that it has this sleeping monster inside it, seemingly waiting for the biggest moments before morphing.
The Heat have been waiting for the most opportune times to unleash this beast throughout the playoffs, responding with resounding force when pushed to the edge of the cliff.
Enter Gregg Popovich.
“Get them on a bus, it arrives at the ramp over here, we get off the bus, we get on the court and we play,” said the ever-blunt coach. “That’s how we get ready.”
This Spurs team doesn’t make any excuses; if any of them ever did, it would be unlikely they would have a roster spot under Popovich, let alone be in this position, still just one win shy of the ultimate goal.
“We had a great opportunity to finish it, but that’s basketball,” said Parker (19 points, 8 assists). “We can show what we’re made of and have a great opportunity. We can’t forget we have another opportunity on Thursday to try to win a championship.”
Duncan (30 points, 17 rebounds) echoed Parker’s mantra, that the Spurs have it in them to bounce back.
“We do exactly that, we recover,” said Duncan . “We’ll use these 48 hours until the next one to get physically right, get re-energized. We’ll do what we usually do. We’ll watch a little bit of film, and make a couple of little tweaks. We’ll put ourselves in a position to win a game.”
Three players on the Spurs – Duncan, Parker and Ginobili – have played in an NBA Finals. They’ve played so well, looked so capable of winning the championship, but it’s possible that they’ve reached the point of no return against the Heat, who just refuse to walk quietly into the night and take a distinct advantage into Thursday’s game.
“The last Game 7 I was a part of, you know, you felt there was just a thickness in the air where everything seemed like it was against you,” described Heat hero Ray Allen, referring to the 2010 Finals, when his Celtics lost to the Lakers in LA. “We even had a lead going into the fourth quarter, and we just ran out of gas. That’s where when you play in front of your home building, it gives you so much momentum. That’s what happened tonight, playing in front of our fans. They gave us that momentum and that energy coming down in the fourth quarter and we’re going to look to feed off that same energy in Game 7.”
The Spurs left a monstrosity behind them when they let this epic thriller get away.
If they can find a way to close out this series, that mess will be forever forgiven and will fade into history.
But with a loss, they will be haunted by the ghosts of Game 6’s fourth quarter and overtime for a lifetime.
Jeremy Bauman is an aspiring shooting coach and scout who writes columns and blogs for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.