San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat: NBA Finals Game 7 Preview and Predictions
Though the San Antonio Spurs would beg to differ, there's nothing better than a Game 7.
Trailing the Spurs 3-2 and facing elimination, the Miami Heat came storming back from behind in Game 6 to force a series-deciding Game 7.
Leveling the playing field has changed things for both teams.
It's still championship or bust for the Heat, but they're at home, clad with the knowledge that they didn't put their best foot forward by any means in Game 6 and still won. Momentum has shifted.
The Spurs find themselves in foreign territory. It seems like a lifetime ago that ESPN's First Take actually featured a debate on whether the Spurs should rest their starters in Game 6.
This was the debate on First Take this morning. pic.twitter.com/Q4t9aPnLfF— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 18, 2013
For the first time all postseason, they are facing a win-or-go-home situation. And for the second time in the last eight years, they've been pushed to Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
Will the Spurs be able to steal another win on the road and lay claim to their fourth title in the last decade, or will the Heat hand San Antonio's Big Three their first ever Finals loss en route to a second straight title?
There really isn't anything better than a Game 7.
Time: Thursday, June 20, 9 p.m. ET
Where: AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami
Series: Tied 3-3
Key Storyline: What's at Stake in Game 7?
Roller coaster rides are a part of the NBA, but the finals have had more twists, turns and loops than anyone could have imagined.
Each team has stolen a game on the road, neither team has won two in a row and both are now one win away from another championship.
San Antonio's Big Three is searching for a fourth title, the fifth of Tim Duncan's career, while also looking to disparage everything Miami represents.
Because the Spurs aren't a superteam. Collectively, they're super incredible, but they don't count on a handful of superstars in their prime or their Big Three exclusively. They win with depth and poise, a mantra that has carried them this far.
But can it carry them any further?
Pushing the Heat to the brink wasn't what was initially envisioned for this team. They weren't even supposed to make it out of the Western Conference. Yet here they are, one win away from advancing a dynasty that was thought to be dead, one game away from an offseason filled with questions.
Win or lose, the Spurs have decisions to make. Duncan could retire, and Manu Ginobili could do the same or sign elsewhere as a free agent. Taking Game 7 affords both players the opportunity to walk away from the game—or in Ginobili's case, the team—on top if they so please.
That's the choice Tony Parker has always wanted to allow Duncan to make. Nothing beats walking away on your own terms. Even if the Spurs win and opt to reconvene next season, it won't be because they need another title to justify what they've done; it will be because they want to. Losing Game 7 strips them of the ability to make a series of gut-wrenching decisions less difficult.
Miami is in a similar boat—playing for a legacy.
Like the Spurs, the Heat are looking to validate their original vision. A dynasty was promised upon their formation, and another title brings them one step closer to successfully building one.
Their Big Three are fighting for survival.
Not that the Heat would necessarily break up their terrific triumvirate with a loss. They might, they might not. Win, and they won't be put in a position where they have to make that decision. Anything they say, any move they make will be on their own terms.
Losing complicates matters, just like it always does. LeBron James' legacy (in Miami) rides on him attaining another title, and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh suddenly find themselves battling to preserve their league-wide standing. Their unsettling postseason campaigns won't be subject to as much scrutiny if the Heat can pull this out.
More than a single championship is at stake for both these teams leading into Game 7. So much more.
Projected Starting Lineups
Miami: Mario Chalmers (PG), Dwyane Wade (SG), Mike Miller (SF), LeBron James (PF) and Chris Bosh (C)
San Antonio: Tony Parker (PG), Manu Ginobili (SG), Danny Green (SF), Kawhi Leonard (PF) and Tim Duncan (C)
Heat Will Win If...
...They can limit their disadvantage in the paint.
Miami found a way to stifle San Antonio's three-point attack in Game 6, holding it to 5-of-18 shooting from long range (27.8 percent). Coming in, the Spurs were connecting on 44.2 percent of their deep balls as players like Danny Green and Gary Neal were killing the Heat from beyond the arc.
Now it's time to find a solution to the Heat's interior deficiencies.
LeBron and friends aren't going to win the points-in-the-paint battle outright on most nights. When they run small like they have been, it's not a realistic goal.
Being exploited like they were in Game 6 though, when the Spurs had a 24-point advantage around the basket (60-36) and Duncan notched 25 first-half points on 6-of-7 shooting around the rim, cannot happen again if the Heat wish to avoid another nail-biter.
San Antonio is averaging more than 44 points in the paint per game during the NBA Finals, an alarming number considering Miami relinquished fewer than 40 a night during the regular season.
In the Heat's previous two series victories, they kept the Spurs' inside attack in check, effectively cutting off dribble penetration. Both times the Spurs failed to eclipse 40 points in the paint, and both times the Heat blew them out.
It also almost goes without saying that the Heat will win if LeBron is in Game-6-fourth-quarter-attack mode for all of Game 7. The headband came off and the beast within him came out.
He went 7-of-11 from the field for 16 points to close out regulation, sparking a comeback that didn't seem possible the way the Heat were playing.
If LeBron can put forth a similar effort for more than a single quarter, the Spurs are in trouble and the Heat will be left to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy above their heads for a second straight year.
The Spurs Will Win If...
...A fourth member of their team comes to ball on the offensive end.
Only three Spurs scored in double figures for Game 6 despite playing an extra five minutes of basketball. That can't happen.
Duncan, Parker and Kawhi Leonard combined for 71 of San Antonio's 100 points, looking on as Ginobili attempted a mere five shots one game after dropping 24 points and Green went 1-of-5 from deep after spending the entire series connecting on more than 65 percent of his triples.
Expecting Green and Ginobili (and even Neal) to duplicate past performances is unfair, but the Spurs need more potent offensive contributions from each of them in Game 6.
More economic showings from downtown are also a luxury that has become a necessity.
The Spurs took a 3-2 lead thanks to a number of factors, none more important than their 44-plus percent clip from behind the arc.
Asking them to knock down more than half of their distance attempts borders on ridiculous. Imploring them to connect on more than the 27.8 percent they did in Game 6 is not.
Parker needs to be more efficient overall as well.
Though he dropped 19 points and made a pair of big plays down the stretch, going 6-of-23 from the floor in a championship-deciding Game 7 isn't going to get him his fourth ring or Duncan's fifth. Still impeded by a hamstring injury, the Spurs need to hope Parker can be better, like he was in Game 5.
Boxing out Chris Bosh with the game on the line wouldn't hurt San Antonio's cause either.
Miami's Finals MVP: LeBron James
Seriously, who else?
Miami has been wildly unreliable in the finals, LeBron included. The Heat, however, wouldn't be in a position to win their second straight championship without him.
LeBron's averaging 23.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 7.5 assists in the series, essentially posting near-triple-doubles every night (what else is new?). His 43.3 percent shooting clip (29.2 from deep) is underwhelming, but his fourth-quarter effort in Game 6 was astounding.
Constantly attacking has worked for LeBron and the Heat. When he's being aggressive, they're scoring more, playing better defense and maintaining a semblance of cohesion.
However erratic his outings have been is nothing compared to where the Heat would be if he was as consistently absent as Bosh and Wade have been.
San Antonio's Finals MVP: Tony Parker
Duncan deserves consideration because of his two-way continuity, but Parker needs to get the nod.
Riddled by a sore hamstring, Parker has still managed to post 16.7 points and 6.8 assists a night. Like LeBron, his 43.3 percent clip from the floor is regrettable, but we must ask ourselves: Where would the Spurs be without him?
Parker put the Spurs in position to win Game 6 after they squandered a double-digit fourth-quarter lead. He also hit the victory-icing shot in Game 1.
Had he not come up big after falling to his knees in the opening contest, the Spurs could have lost. Game 6 could have been their swan song.
Fortunately, it wasn't. Most definitely because of Duncan, but even more so because of the resilient Parker.
Miami doesn't lose consecutive games, as we saw in Game 6. Lately, the Heat don't snag successive victories either.
LeBron and friends haven't won back-to-back contests in nearly a month, stemming back to a Game 5 win over the Chicago Bulls and Game 1 victory over the Indiana Pacers. San Antonio is hoping the vexing trend continues.
Which team will win Game 7 and be crowned NBA champion?
These Heatles have been far from perfect during the NBA Finals, and the absence of consistency among their Big Three has been infuriating, but they won't lose.
This is Game 7. On their home floor. They're not losing. LeBron isn't going to let them.
Following a Game 6 fourth-quarter showing to remember—save for his two turnovers in the final minute of regulation—LeBron has to understand he must take over for a full 48 minutes or however long he's on the floor.
San Antonio has the depth to overcome a transcendent performance from The Chosen One, and it's safe to assume the Spurs won't go down as easily as the Indiana Pacers did in Game 7, but it's not going to be enough.
Parker won't get his fourth ring; Duncan won't get his fifth.
LeBron will get his second.
Prediction: Heat 93, Spurs 88
Predicted Finals MVP: LeBron James
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