Breaking Down What Went Wrong in San Antonio Spurs' Excruciating NBA Finals Loss
In Game 6, it appeared as though the San Antonio Spurs would be crowned NBA champions of 2013. However, within the span of 28 seconds, the team watched its lead disappear as LeBron James and Ray Allen ensured a Game 7.
The series' final game didn't lack excitement, though the Spurs certainly did not reach their desired outcome. Ultimately falling just short, San Antonio watched the title slip away from beneath it.
After watching the Spurs come so close, a question remains: What went wrong?
Reaching the NBA Finals for the fifth time has enshrined Gregg Popovich in the coaching Mount Rushmore. America's favorite curmudgeon will go down as one of the best ever at his job; there isn't even a debate.
However, turning a blind eye to Pop's mistakes because he is an all-time great would be wrong. San Antonio's brilliant sideline general has his reasons for every adjustment, and many a time he proves to be right.
If you want to excuse his decision not to foul in the waning seconds of Game 6, that is one thing. After all, Popovich has a history of not putting the opposing team on the line in those situations.
But a handful of questionable substitutions left Pop under the microscope following Game 6, and rightfully so. The Spurs fell an offensive rebound away from a title—an offensive rebound that occurred during a possession in which Tim Duncan was benched.
Tony Parker was also absent during the Spurs' last opportunity at a three-pointer in overtime, as he was during the team's final opportunities in Game 7. A controversial uncalled timeout further extends the list of Pop's blunders late in the series.
Popovich's adjustments early ensured San Antonio's finals campaign would be somewhat successful, but among his plethora of smart moves were a significant number of mistakes that could have helped to change the Spurs' fate.
Where do I begin with Manu Ginobili?
A disappointing end to the Western Conference Finals left many fans doubtful about Ginobili's contributions going forward. Aside from a single game, Ginobili's production in the championship warranted plenty of criticism.
He began the series slow, failing to contribute when called upon. His ability to shoot was nonexistent, and his characteristic crazy passes transformed into turnovers. After a slow start in the first few games, Ginobili's struggles seemingly peaked in Game 4, when he scored just five points, totaling a plus-minus of minus-22 during his awful performance.
His lone return to stardom occurred in Game 5, when Ginobili—after being inserted into the starting lineup—notched 24 points and 10 assists.
His success was short-lived, however, as the veteran guard committed a career-worst eight turnovers in the subsequent game. He was just as detrimental in Game 7, committing four turnovers, with three coming in the game's final few minutes.
Overall, his shooting was inconsistent, and his decision-making as a playmaker was highly questionable. His playing time remained fairly high given his struggles, and despite receiving multiple chances to redeem himself, Ginobili failed to prove that he was anything more than a shadow of his former self.
The Spurs' three-point shooting was, at first, nearly flawless.
Danny Green led the team effort, etching his name into the record books for his contributions. His 27 made three-pointers surpassed Ray Allen's previous record, as the former D-Leaguer ensured that he was no longer dwelling in obscurity.
His shooting, alongside the magnificent performance of Gary Neal, was the primary reason as to why San Antonio was able to rout the Heat in Game 3. However, he wasn't able to get the same open looks after Game 5, and he became a non-factor.
Shooting just 2-of-11 in the final two contests, the Spurs could no longer rely on him from behind the arc. As a whole, San Antonio began to grow inconsistent from three-point territory to the point where three-point shooting was no longer a reliable asset to the offense.
Meanwhile, Miami continued to excel from long range, a major reason as to why it was able to pull through in the end.
In the beginning stages of the Spurs' postseason run, Tony Parker confirmed the notion that he was the best point guard in the league. He was terrific in the first two rounds, and his performance against the Memphis Grizzlies further solidified his value.
A similar pace was expected to be kept against the Heat, and it was in the first game. Parker scored 10 points in the final quarter, including an off-balanced dagger that will reappear on highlight reels for a long time.
However, by the end of the series, Miami had figured out a way to contain the Spurs' top player.
Tasking LeBron James with the job of stopping Parker helped to hinder Parker's efforts both as a scorer and a distributor. Parker still found ways to score—all superstars do—but he did so less efficiently with James opposing him.
Once Parker began struggling, the rest of the team followed suit. He still managed to be a primary contributor, but he wasn't able to maximize his talents following Miami's defensive adjustment.
The Spurs ultimately fell a few possessions short of the title, and a series of missed opportunities sealed San Antonio's fate.
The first opportunity came in Game 6, when the Spurs found themselves seconds away from glory. Missed foul shots from Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili, costly turnovers and defensive collapses eventually ensured a Game 7.
In Game 7, the Spurs found themselves with a chance to tie following a Ginobili three and the subsequent steal. A Danny Green missed three-pointer prevented the Spurs from gaining the advantage. Moments later, Tim Duncan missed an inside attempt and the following tip-in after the deficit was cut to just two.
In the offseason, the team will retool and return as contenders just as it has for years. However, had the Spurs taken advantage of the numerous opportunities, they would be your 2013 NBA champions.