MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/21 June) – When LeBron James entered the court for Game 7 of the Miami Heat-San Antonio Spurs NBA Finals, he surely had one thing in mind: the ignominy of losing a deciding game at home. How could he forget the 2007 Finals when he was still with the Cleveland Cavaliers, when the Tim Duncan-led San Antonio robbed him of a championship ring right in his former team’s home court?
James has not forgotten that forgettable loss six years ago even if Duncan approached him to say something like he would have his own good time as the dominant player in the league. In an interview with NPA Premium TV, he admitted still having angst over the sight of the Spurs celebrating in the Cavs’ home court. But in Game 7, James succeeded in slaying the ghost that had haunted him since 2007. Duncan paid homage to The King after the last second of the season ticked away.
But I believe the final game was as mental as it was physical. It wasn’t only a matchup between the so-called Big Threes of the two teams; it was also – and perhaps, more importantly – a duel between Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and his counterpart in Heat, Erik Spoelstra. The latter employed the core philosophy of Sun Tzu’s Art of War – turn your weakness into your strength, and the enemy’s strength into his weakness.
San Antonio clogged the paint to prevent the Heat, mainly James and Wade, from making penetrations. Spoelstra responded by giving James a blank check to take jumpers from outside. Fortunately for Miami, their hands were hot from the perimeter. James made five triples, and Shane Battier buried six more, to offset the Spurs’ dominance in the paint.
In the first five games of the series, Battier was only 3-for-15 from beyond the arc. He was benched during the protracted Eastern Conference Finals with the Indiana Pacers for missing the shots. But he redeemed himself in Game 7.
In contrast, San Antonio’s outside shooters could not deliver those triples that dazed the Heat in Game 3, as Miami’s one-on-one cover choked the perimeter. Danny Green, the Spurs’ main gunner from the three-point range, could only salvage a lone triple.
As expected, Popovich simultaneously fielded Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker hoping to add more spunk to San Antonio’s offense. Ginobili had flashes of brilliance, but not enough to make up for the anemic performance of Tony Parker who, aside from nursing an injury, was hobbled by James’ defense.
The Spurs had a chance in the dying seconds of the game. However, they blew it with Leonard’s hurried three-point attempt and Duncan’s missed two shots near the basket. Perhaps Mother Time has already caught up with the Big Fundamental, who has four NBA titles to his name, and the rest of San Antonio’s ageing stars.
Frankly, though, I think the series was decided in Game 6, when Leonard missed one of two free throws that would have made it a two-possession lead with less than a minute left. The next play saw Ray Allen made a triple off a pass from Bosh. Parker failed to convert in the last 5.2 seconds, sending the game to overtime. The rest is history.
Oh yes, San Antonio had a chance in Game 7 for a fifth title. But talking about history no team has lost in a Game 7 in its home court. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])