June 18, 2013

NBA Finals: San Antonio moves in for the finish

If the Spurs can dethrone the Heat with a win on Tuesday night, they'll improve to 5-0 in the NBA finals.

The Associated Press

MIAMI - The Miami Heat weren't supposed to be in this situation. Not now, anyway.

Chris Bosh, Tim Duncan
click image to enlarge

Tim Duncan, driving past Miami’s Chris Bosh in Game 5, has won four NBA titles in his career. Yet the Spurs have never received the recognition they deserve. That, however, could change with a win in Miami on Tuesday night in Game 6 or Thursday night in Game 7.

The Associated Press

GAME 6

WHO: San Antonio Spurs at Miami Heat

WHEN: 9 p.m. Tuesday

TELEVISION: ABC

SERIES: Spurs lead, 3-2

Coming home from Texas with their season on the line in 2011 was one thing. They were at the end of their first year together -- LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh still trying to figure it all out and clearly a long way from it.

But this season they were the NBA's best team, one that lost three games in three months and made losing three times in one series look unlikely, if not downright unimaginable.

The San Antonio Spurs can finish Miami off Tuesday night in Game 6 of the NBA finals, reaffirming themselves as one of the league's greatest franchises.

If so, the Heat's Big Three once again go from celebrated to devastated.

"We're going to see if we're a better team than we were our first year together," James said.

The Spurs took a 3-2 lead with their 114-104 victory Sunday night. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were all brilliant again, and Danny Green added to what could become one of the most out-of-nowhere finals MVP campaigns ever.

One more victory makes the Spurs 5-0 in the NBA finals, keeping pace with Michael Jordan's 6-0 Chicago Bulls as the only teams to make it here multiple times and never lose.

"We understand Game 6 is huge," Parker said. "Obviously, you want to finish in the first opportunity you get. We understand that Miami is going to come out with a lot more energy, and they're going to play better at home. They're going to shoot the ball better. Their crowd is going to be behind them."

None of that mattered two years ago.

Clearly reeling and their psyches shaken after dropping two straight games in Dallas, the Heat were blitzed early in Game 6. They never recovered, Bosh inconsolable as he made his way back to the locker room afterward while the Mavericks celebrated at center court.

James had to endure the criticisms that came with not getting it done in the finals, a story line that was put to rest last year but will be back again if the Heat don't manage to put together consecutive victories.

"We challenge ourselves to see if we're a better team than we were," Wade said. "Same position no matter how we got to it."

The Heat would also host Game 7 on Thursday. They're trying to join the 1988 and 2010 Los Angeles Lakers and 1994 Houston Rockets as the only teams to rally from 3-2 down by winning the final two at home since the NBA finals went to a 2-3-2 format in 1985.

Of course, the Heat -- who won 27 in a row during the second-longest winning streak in league history -- haven't put together consecutive victories now in close to a month.

"We're in a position where it's a must-win and everything that we've done all year comes to this point, and we have to win," Heat guard Ray Allen said. "We've found ourselves in so many situations this year, and we've thrived in tough moments because this is a tough team. We will be ready for Game 6."

So will the Spurs, and the Heat know it.

"I'm sure this team, they've been here before many times. They understand winning that last game is one of the hardest things you're going to do. And we understand it as well," Wade said.

"But you know what? It's the game; we've got to play it. I like our chances, just like they like their chances, in this series and in Game 6. We'll see. We'll see which team, which style is going to prevail."

Their four titles have made the Spurs respected but never beloved. Their first, in 1999, came following a 50-game lockout season, and they certainly weren't the team to help the NBA regain its jilted fan base.

Victories in 2003 over New Jersey, 2005 over Detroit and 2007 over James' Cleveland Cavaliers were all low-rated, lukewarm-interest series in which the Spurs were supposed to win and did, just not in a way that erased the idea that they had boring players with a boring brand of basketball.

Win this one, though, and they will surely get their due. They would be knocking off the league's winningest team and the game's best player, with Duncan at 37 and Ginobili soon to be 36, behind a more wide-open offense that has helped Green break Allen's finals record for 3-pointers.

 

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