Regardless of whether the San Antonio Spurs or Miami Heat are crowned 2013 NBA champions on Thursday, one thing is for sure: The season will end after the final buzzer sounds.
These 2013 NBA Finals have been the definition of a back-and-forth battle. Each team has alternated wins through the first six games of the best-of-seven series, with an unforgettable Game 6 serving as a microcosm of the first half-dozen games.
Whether you blame the Spurs for collapsing just seconds away from a title or credit the Heat for completing one of the all-time great comebacks, Game 6 is history and it's time for a do-or-die Game 7.
Here we'll get you set for Thursday's monumental clash in South Beach.
Where: AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami
When: Thursday, June 20, at 9 p.m. ET
Live Stream: ESPN3
Key Stat Coming into Game 7
The most impressive statistic coming into Thursday's Game 7 has to be the fact that the Spurs are 4-0 this postseason after suffering a loss.
In those four wins, San Antonio has won easily, by an average of 18.5 points per game. But Tuesday's Game 6 loss was unlike any of the other losses the Spurs have been dealt in these playoffs.
San Antonio led by five points with under 30 seconds left to play, a game the Spurs win 99 out of 100 times. An overtime loss at this stage is gut-wrenching without a doubt, but the Spurs' most recent defeat falls under the category of demoralizing, via ESPN Stats & Info:
Before last night, teams were 122-0 in the playoffs since 1998 (Duncan's first postseason) when up by 5 pts w/ between 20-30 seconds left— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 19, 2013
Plus, the Spurs will be putting their stat up against some overwhelming history. You have to go all the way back to 1978 to find the last time a team won Game 7 of the NBA Finals on the road, via ESPN Stats & Info:
Last team to win an NBA Finals Game 7 on the road: 1978 Washington Bullets— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 20, 2013
Will Tony Parker and company become the first squad in 35 years to win a championship-clinching Game 7 in hostile territory, or will the Heat join the list of teams over the past four decades who have secured the crown on their home floor?
What's at Stake for the Miami Heat?
A win in Game 7 would give the Heat back-to-back NBA titles, providing them with their own special place in NBA history as one of only a handful of teams to win consecutive championships.
Individually, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would all add another ring to their Hall of Fame resumes. Wade would become a three-time champion and James would be just four titles shy of Michael Jordan.
LeBron would also join another very short and impressive list with a win according to ESPN Stats & Info:
LeBron James: looks to join Michael Jordan and Bill Russell as the only players to win back-to-back regular season MVP awards and NBA titles— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 20, 2013
But a loss at home in Game 7 would haunt Miami for a long time, and could even spell the end of the Big Three era in South Beach with trade rumors involving Chris Bosh swirling around, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
The Heat have reached three straight NBA Finals going back to 2011, and if they were to emerge with just one title in three tries, that would have to be considered a failure given the immense amount of talent they've had at their disposal.
LeBron's legacy in particular would be hurt by a loss. James would be 1-3 for his career in championship series and those who label him as a choker or a traitor would only have more fuel to feed the fire.
What's at Stake for the San Antonio Spurs?
Gregg Popovich and the Spurs are 4-for-4 in the NBA Finals, and a win in Game 7 on Thursday would make San Antonio a perfect 5-for-5 in the NBA's championship series dating back to the franchise's first title in 1999.
With five titles the Spurs would pull within a championship of the Chicago Bulls, who rank third behind the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers for most all time.
Which team has more at stake in Thursday's Game 7?
For Popovich, a fifth ring would tie him with Pat Riley and John Kundla for third-most for an NBA coach all time. Only Phil Jackson (11 titles) and Red Auerbach (nine titles) won more than five championships.
Tim Duncan, whom many view as the greatest power forward to ever play, would tie George Mikan, Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson with a fifth ring to his name. If Duncan were to win NBA Finals MVP honors, he will have won the award four times, and rank second all time behind only Michael Jordan, who has six.
And while a Game 7 loss on Thursday night will sting the Spurs for the remainder of the summer, it certainly wouldn't tarnish the franchise's legacy. Clearly, the Miami Heat have a lot more to lose from this game even if the Spurs have more to gain, via ESPN The Magazine:
As much as a bad loss could ding LeBron's legacy, a big win may boost Tim Duncan's NBA footprint even more.— ESPN The Magazine (@ESPNMag) June 19, 2013
History is against San Antonio and many have already written off the Spurs given the way they lost in Game 6. Therefore, the pressure is on the Miami Heat to become the first team in this series to win consecutive games.
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