A player doesn’t have to be one of the Big 3—or Big 6—in order to have a huge performance in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs will certainly be hoping that the likes of LeBron James, Tim Duncan and Dwyane Wade, among others, will play well. But both conference champions need someone to step up when they aren’t exactly expected to. We’ve already seen a couple of these examples throughout the series.
So, which role players are most likely to have a great game on Thursday night with the NBA Championship on the line? Here’s a look at three players who have made various impacts through the first six games who you need to keep an eye on for Game 7. You never know who’s going to hit that game-winning shot.
Shane Battier, Miami Heat
Shane Battier has been a major afterthought in this series. That’s mainly because coach Erik Spoelstra has refused to give him many minutes on the floor. Battier has seen more than 10 minutes of court time in Games 5 and 6. In the first four games of the series, he averaged just seven minutes.
Battier is still one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA Finals. He shot better from downtown during the regular season than he did from the floor in general. He has definitely struggled throughout the postseason, though. He’s only shooting 24.7 percent from the floor and 25 percent from three-point territory in the playoffs.
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald recently wrote how Battier isn’t really fitting in with the Heat this postseason. His main argument is that Battier’s usual group—playing alongside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers—has been horrible together. Through June 9, those five had been outscored by 32 points in 159 minutes, according to Jackson. That’s not pretty at all.
But you could look at Battier’s struggles in two ways: he’s lost his touch or he’s due. I’m going to go with the latter. In the last two games, Battier has hit 5-of-10 shots from deep, which could mean that he’s about to breakout. If Battier can hit a couple of early threes, pending he gets into the game, he could catch fire quickly.
Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs
Danny Green has been quite the sharpshooter through the postseason and more specifically, the NBA Finals. He’s shooting 60.5 percent from downtown and is averaging 15.5 points per game. It was all going great for Green until he took the floor for Game 6, where he went absolutely cold.
Green told seven shots and five three-pointers in 41 minutes and only hit one shot from downtown. His three points were the second-fewest for him all postseason long. He scored just two in a game against the Lakers and three on two other occasions throughout San Antonio’s run through the Western Conference.
Green already owns the NBA Finals record for most three-pointers made in the series and he will definitely look to pad it with a few more on Thursday night. But will he regain his confidence and get hot again from deep or will it be a Game 6-like performance? Well, one would assume that he would bounce back just fine.
Green has scored 20-plus points twice throughout this series and if he comes into Game 7 fresh and ready to go, the Heat better watch out. He’ll still be guarded very closely, which will make things difficult for him, but another game where he hits four or five three balls and finishes with at least 15 points would not be surprising.
Ray Allen, Miami Heat
There wouldn’t be a Game 7 if Ray Allen didn’t catch a pass from Chris Bosh, step back and drain a contested three pointer to tie the score in Game 6. It was the best shot all postseason long without a doubt. Allen has that type of ability, where he can make any shot in any instant if he gets his feet set.
While Allen did hit the game’s biggest shot, it wasn’t close his best game of the NBA Finals. In Game 5, Allen shot 7-for-10 from the field and was a perfect 4-for-4 from downtown for 21 points. In fact, Allen’s nine points in Game 6 were the second fewest for him throughout the series.
But it’s not all about what Allen has or hasn’t done against the Spurs; it’s about what he’s capable of doing. Allen has one of the top shooting touches in all of professional basketball and it comes to the surprise of no one when he has a good game. Every made shot is the start of what could be a hot steak for the former UConn Husky.
There is a pair of scenarios where Allen could have a big performance. For one, he could just have a great night shooting. Allen could go 4-for-5 from three-point territory and finish with 20 points, or something of that nature. On the other hand, he could go cold all night, get a shot with time winding down and hit the series-winning basket.