Manu Ginobili took a dribble toward the middle of the court from the right side and fired the ball across the court to Danny Green.
“The only way for us in a game like this was to push it,” explained Ginobili (18 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, 4 turnovers) during his extremely genuine postgame discussion from the podium. “We really had to get them unbalanced because once they got settled on five‑on‑five, it was very hard because of their length and athletic abilities. So we had to push it. That’s what I focused on the whole game.”
LeBron James (37 points, 5-5 3FG, 12 rebounds, 4 assists) tried to make a play on the ball in the backcourt, but even The King couldn’t get a hand on it.
As Danny Green (5 points, 1-12 FG) brought the ball upcourt on the left side and sought an opening to take advantage of, Chris Bosh (0 points, 7 rebounds) rushed back on defense and closed out on Green, who had burned the Miami Heat on all too many occasions in this series.
Bosh forced Green to give up his dribble before he reached the paint.
Green dished out to Ginobili, who immediately fired the ball inside to Duncan (24 points, 12 rebounds) in the most enviable of positions: As a result of Bosh sticking to Green in transition, 6’8″ Shane Battier (18 points, 6-8 3FG), one of the most hard-nosed and gritty defenders you’ll ever see on the hardwood, was matched up with the 6’11”, 255 pound future Hall of Famer on the left block.
What happened next is something you simply haven’t seen many times on the grandest stage by arguably the best power forward to ever lace ’em up.
He missed a shot he normally makes:
So when Tim Duncan tells you that despite the agony of losing as disheartening of a game as possible in Game 6, he’ll remember this series because of the chance he had to grasp the bull by the horns and make one of the most clutch shots of his storied, 15-year, 4-championship career, understand that he means it with great candor.
“Game 7, missing a lay‑up to tie the game,” said Duncan after pausing, rubbing his forehead and recounting the opportunity of a lifetime. “… Got by Shane and had a lay‑up to tie the game.”
“For me,” Duncan said, “Game 7 is going to haunt me.”
Why will that be the memory that Duncan begrudgingly holds onto?
It’s because deep down, Timmy has no one but himself to blame for that shot. He’s the teammate he is today because he doesn’t let himself get away with missing routine bunnies around the rim. He simply expects more from himself.
“I’m 215 pounds, 6’8″, obviously I’m giving up major weight and height to Duncan,” said Battier. “So I was just praying that he missed it. To be honest with you, I don’t think I affected the shot that much. I was just trying to make him shoot over the top. And that’s a shot Tim Duncan usually makes eight out of 10 times.”
“For whatever reason that shot didn’t drop right then,” continued Battier. “I’m very thankful. It wasn’t because of my defense. He just missed it.”
Under a minute to go. 90-88. The ball in the exact position San Antonio wanted it.
And no dice.
If a single shot could sum up the entire series for the Spurs, it was this one.
A routine shot for the best player on the team didn’t go down after they couldn’t close out a game they’d normally close out 99-of-100 times.
Not only did they miss out on larger than life opportunities in the past two games; let’s not forget that in the past week and half they had chances to deliver deafening body blows in Games 2 and 4, also, after defeating the defending champs in Games 1 and 3.
They were a step ahead at every turn in this series, but they just couldn’t land that signature knockout blow that it takes to dethrone a behemoth, in this case against perhaps one of the most defiant teams in NBA history, the 2013 NBA Champion Miami Heat.
Deep down, every single member of this Spurs team – from Patty Mills to R.C. Buford – knows that this season’s Larry O’Brien trophy was meant to come back to San Antonio.
As someone who is blessed to be in this position, he’s acutely aware that moments – games – like the ones his teammates and he just had, they don’t come around very often.
After a crucial Game 7 loss, there is only one way to feel.
“Hurt,” Green managed to release, his lips chattering, eyes puffy.
Not just for himself.
“That we couldn’t get it done, mostly for my teammates,” Green continued. “Especially Tim Duncan.”
Words like this, they’re the underlying reason the San Antonio Spurs were even in the position that they were in: They cared about one another.
That’s why after their crushing Game 6 loss they went out to a dawn dinner and attempted to recover from the harsh reality that they had relinquished the 2013 NBA Championship, practically cancelled their own Larry O’Brien trophy presentation in front of the Miami Heat’s home crowd, over conversation about politics, spending time with families during the offseason, retirement and moving to lands far away from here.
Despite their efforts to keep it a secret, now that the victor has been crowned, we’ll forever know the truth about the San Antonio Spurs: Instead of happy, timeless and enjoyable memories from this series, each individual will have to live with their own select gut-wrenching nightmares – from Tiago Splitter being rejected at the rim by the 2013 Bill Russell trophy winner, LeBron James, to Manu Ginobili’s 9 point, 8 turnover showing in Game 6 to Tony Parker’s 9-for-35 (25.7% FG) stretch in Games 6 and 7.
What we also most certainly know is that their coming up short wasn’t the result of a lack of effort or intensity.
Duncan’s miss (actually it was two misses, because he failed on a tip-in attempt, too) kept the score 90-88, and was followed by a 19-footer by LeBron James, who let everyone know two things — he can shoot it from outside, and he is from Akron, Ohio. A turnover by Ginobili followed (James came up with the steal), and it was a six-point game with 23 seconds left after James knocked down a pair from the free throw line.
It was over.