Let’s forget about the adjectives, the cliches and the hyperbole. Tuesday night’s Game 6 of the NBA Finals was the best Finals game in a really, really long time for many reasons. Clutch shots, transcendental performances, controversial calls and decisions and several signature moments all factored heavily into Miami’s 103-100 overtime win over San Antonio to force Thursday night’s Game 7. Here are several things we can take away from this unbelievable basketball night.
1. San Antonio got about as close as you can get to a title. You’ll appreciate this metaphor if you’re a baseball fan, but the Spurs in Game 6 were a lot like the 2011 Texas Rangers: one strike away, as Alan Hahn tweeted. And coming so close, up by five points with 29 seconds left in the fourth quarter, always leaves the losing team pondering the “what-ifs.” San Antonio missed a few crucial free throws down the stretch, didn’t get the rebound on the LeBron James missed 3-pointer with time running out and didn’t foul up by three before Ray Allen hit the biggest trey of his life (more on that in a bit).
San Antonio only missed seven of 28 free throws, but it seems like nearly all of them came in crucial moments. The usually potent 3-point shooting wasn’t there, and a couple more makes to improve its 5-for-18 showing would have delivered Tim Duncan a fifth championship. Any team that loses a game like that will end up with many regrets. The Spurs surely have theirs.
2. LeBron James grew up. Sure, there will be those people who will discuss the headband and the metaphorical symbolism that had in Miami’s fourth quarter comeback. But this isn’t an English literature class. Simply put, he was passive during the first three quarters, shooting 3-for-12 from the floor, and then appropriately elevated his game to the height of the moment as his team was on the verge of elimination. That did not happen during Game 6 of the 2011 Finals or during the 2010 postseason. But it happened on Tuesday night. Simply put, James has matured as a superstar player.
“We seen the championship board already out there, the yellow tape. And you know, that’s why you play the game to the final buzzer,” James said after the game. “And that’s what we did tonight. We gave it everything that we had and more…It’s by far the best game I’ve ever been a part of.”
James finished with 32 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists, becoming the first player to have a 30-10-10 Finals game since Charles Barkley did it for the Suns in 1993.
“He just made plays. I don’t think there’s any two ways to put it,” Duncan said. “We were in the right position to close it out and he found a way to put his team over the top and we just didn’t make enough plays to do that.”
According to Elias, James entered Tuesday’s game averaging 31.5 points per game in elimination games, the highest of all time. James may not have won this game a couple of years ago. Times have changed.
3. San Antonio’s two G’s turned into F’s. A huge difference between Games 5 and 6 were the performances of Danny Green and Manu Ginobili. As mentioned in the most recent StatBox column, Green averaged 13 shots per Finals game in wins and just seven in losses. His total number of shots in Game 6? Seven, of course.
Miami said it would make an effort of guarding Green better in Game 6 and definitely accomplished that. After Ginobili’s 24 and 10 performance in Game 5, he was worse than a non-factor in Game 6. He became a liability and should have been removed from the game. He was a minus-21 for the game while on the floor, incredibly poor considering the games’s three-point final margin.
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