There comes a time, in every journey, where things look bleak.
Down 13 towards of the end of third quarter, with Tim Duncan already scoring 30 and LeBron James only with 12 points, would qualify as such a time for the Miami Heat.
And there comes a time when those moments have to be overcome.
Perhaps the night is darkest before the dawn (Perhaps that's the wrong DC movie quote).
If ever you want to equate a basketball player's performance with that of a superhero's, LeBron's performance at the end of game 6, in a do or die situation, might be your chance.
18 points in the 4th + overtime, finishing with a triple double, blocking Tim Duncan at the rim, and guarding Tony Parker for good measure. Was he perfect? No, of course not. Did he get help? Of course he did. But how many times have you seen someone put his team of his back and do everything, in an elimination game?
Take a look a this sequence, it sums it all up:
A Good look
Everybody Loves Ray
You want to talk about super friends?
I mean, HOLY S*%@!:
Take a look at Norris Cole jumping in the opposite corner - throughout the entire play and then as Ray Allen releases the ball, before it even goes in. That dude knew.
The look of confidence
Yes, that's essentially all 5 Spurs running out at Ray Allen in the corner.
Yes, that's team savior LeBron James WIDE-OPEN calling for the ball at the top of the key.
Question: Ray "when you caught that pass from Chris, LeBron was at the top of the key screaming. Did you ever consider kicking it out?"
Ray (shaking head): "No."
By the way, I love how Mario Chalmers has his hands up in the opposite corner calling for the ball as well. You can do nothing but admire his confidence. Truth be told - he came up BIG in game 6 with 20 points as Miami's second leading scorer.
What breeds confidence
Question: Ray, "even for someone whose work ethic is as historic as yours is, to backtrack, get your hands set, get your feet set, take that pass and then have the momentum going forward to shoot, how tough is that even for you to do all that in the span of maybe about a second and a half?"
Ray: "It's tough, but believe it or not, I work on it quite often. I try to put my body in precarious situations coming from different parts of the floor, different angles to try to get my momentum moving forward. I honestly can say that I gave myself a great opportunity, a great chance to make that shot. And it wasn't unfamiliar to me positionally. When it went in, I was ecstatic. But at the same time I was expecting to make it."
So, you're saying that practice makes perfect?
Yes Ray Allen has a historic work ethic - he gets up 300 shots before every game.
Take a look for yourself.
A much needed look
Chris Bosh finished the game with 10 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks.
One of those rebounds came with less than ten second to go in regulation that lead to the kick-out to Ray Allen. One of those blocks came on Tony Parker with just over 30 seconds to go in OT and Miami up only one. And the other block was pictured above - on the last play of the game to prevent Danny Green from getting off a game tying three.
After game 5, in which Danny Green set a record for most three pointers made in an NBA Finals, everyone wondered aloud: "how is he still open?"
Before game 6, Chris Bosh said of Danny Green: "He won't be open."
Kind of fitting for him to live up to his word on the lat play of the game.
Speaking of Danny Green, after averaging 18 points by shooting 66% from three (making 25 of them) through the first 5 games of the Finals, he went 1-5 from three (1-7 overall) for three points in game 6.
So did the Heat switch something up?
A biomedical scientist/NBA correspondent asked coach Spoelstra about this after the game (go to 5:15 minute mark):
For the Spurs:
Game 1: 7 threes made (30%) - Green = 4/9
Game 2: 10 threes made (50%) - Green = 5/5
Game 3: 16 threes made (50%) - Green = 7/9
Game 4: 8 threes made (50%) - Green = 3/5
Game 5: 9 threes made (41%) - Green = 6/10
Game 6: 5 three made (28%) - Green = 1-5
Lowest percentage and makes for the team and for Green. I guess you can say Miami had "better awareness."
Of course a consequence of Playing Parker and Duncan straight up is that those guys will have big games. After averaging 15.6 points through the first 5 games of the series, Duncan broke out (in single coverage) for 30 points in game 6. He was 11-13 at the half and had everyone practically handing him the Finals MVP trophy before the second half begun.
But, is 30 points from Duncan acceptable over open threes?
And to Spoelstra's point about not accepting "trade-offs" but rather doing "both," Miami cut down San Antonio's threes and held Duncan to 5 points in the second half (0 points in the 4th + OT). Miami also placed LeBron on Parker in the 4th + OT.
Maybe they can do both.
Speaking of big games, big shots, great performances, and practice, I though this was a great comment from Tim Duncan regarding how to prepare for the pressure of a winner take all game 7:
"I prepare for every game exactly the same. That's why I feel every game is exactly the same. Obviously the pressure is there, the stage is there, the energy is there. But preparation doesn't change."
I guess that (and playing with your kids at halftime) is a way to remove pressure.
A different look
No sneaker, no problem.
Mike Miller can bang threes regardless.
So where do we go from here?
In series where both teams have taken and received their best shots, have made adjustments, are evenly matched, and pretty much know what the other team is going to do - it may not be about skill as much as it is about will. On the grandest stage how amazing is it that it may be as simple as throwing it all out there and laying everything on the line.
And as simple as that is, let me restate what I said last time:
LeBron guards Parker
Wade matches up with Ginobili (both have been resurgent and bot struggled last game)
Bosh guards Duncan
Allen matches up with Green (forget the record - who makes more/bigger shots this game)
And then it's Chalmers/Miller/Battier against Leonard/Neal
Maybe Diaw or Birdman gets some run here or there, but the match-ups above will decide the game and the championship. And each one of them is as fascinating as it is important.
Both teams are playing small.
Forget the plays and adjustments.
Why don't we just have everyone play straight up one on one, switch on screens if need be.
DON'T LEAVE SHOOTERS - no matter what!
So with that I pose to you:
1) Which team has better one on one players that can break down the defense?
2) Which team has better on the ball defenders?
3) Which team can score more in transition?
4) Which team has more versatile defenders that can guard on switches off screens?
5) Which team has shooters that can shoot better off the dribble or coming off screens?
6) Can Bosh or Duncan outplay one another substantially?
Maybe we got some of those answers last game.
Perhaps we'll get all the answers tonight.
The reality is BOTH teams deserve to win this game.
And both teams can win this game. I'm sure both teams want it as much. But who will do more, when it maters most.
Duncan's legacy vs. LeBron's legacy.
Sheesh - does it get any better than this???
So Timmy, what do you think???
Duncan: "It's all about just winning the title. It's not about situation or what has led up to it......we're here for one reason. One reason only......We're just going to leave it all out there and see what happens."
So LeBron, what do you think???
LeBron: "I want to go down as one of the greatest. I want our team to go down as one of the greatest teams..... It's the hardest thing..... Last year don't even come close to what we've gone through in this postseason and in these Finals. So I'll be there......I'm going to give it my all. I'm going to leave everything on the floor. Whatever happens happens. I'll be satisfied with that."
As a basketball fan, can anything be more satisfying than watching all of that...... with everything on the line???