This was the greatest series that I’ve seen. For ESPN talking heads and twitter NBA fans that only check the score via hashtags this counterintuitively legitimizes all the other Finals wins. The Spurs took the defending champs with the best player on the planet to seven games (and nearly squeaked out a win in six). Make no mistake, the Spurs were not the better team. San Antonio’s best player is 31, the same age as Miami’s second-best player. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are 37 and 35-going-on-36. It was through guile and savvy that they nearly stole the series in Game Six with an amazing display of basketball. That the Heat rallied and made a miraculous comeback says more about their ability than it does about any choking. Like San Antonio learned in 2012, sometimes you can’t out scheme youth, athleticism, and talent, even when spotted guts and experience. Yet the fact that the Spurs, Spartan-like, battled and earned the respect of any and everyone does more for their legacy than the sweep of LeBron’s 2007 Cavaliers ever did. Much like I will always remember that Allen Iverson dropped 48-points on the seemingly unbeatable 2001 Lakers more than I will remember that LA wen’t on to win four straight, I will remember the series where we nearly pulled out an improbable win over the favored1 Heat.
There aren’t many things I can rightfully be angry about while being a Spurs fan. It has been a great run for these last sixteen years. Before 1997, there were some solid seasons. Really, all the way back to Ice Man, the Spurs have been good-but-not-great on average. Tremendous. It hasn’t been complete and obvious glory, though. No back-to-backs that get automatic love. No great Finals series before this one against the Heat. No charismatic players to rally around. We have had to learn to love the not-so-obvious stuff: the wedge-roll, the extra-pass, the well-timed close out without fouling. That kind of thing. It isn’t sexy in the traditional sense. The defense-centric teams that won titles early in Tim’s career won respect from insiders but didn’t captivate anyone north of Waco. The NBA titles were met with begrudging acknowledgment. We both remember the slights: The asterisks, the boring label, the small market sneers, the yeah-buts. This series erased all that. It took a herculean effort from the best player in the world and a return to HOF form from the second best player on their team to eliminate our guys. Throw in a HOF last-gasp three pointer from Ray Allen to boot. The Spurs ain’t no chumps and there no one can deny that.
That kind of thing can get you really philosophical. The kind one gets when faced with non-traditional success (like losing in the NBA Finals.) To wit:
The Game Proper
Tim has made that layup thousands of times and missed it hundreds. Narrow it down to important games and he has made that hundreds and missed it dozens. Last night, he missed it. So it goes.
Basketball is a cruel sport. It is a game of trends, of runs, of averages, of reverting to the mean. Sometimes your shot leaves you. You try to stay confident, work hard to get in position, have good form, but it doesn’t matter what you do. Your shot will come back in it’s own time. You stand in all your old favorite places waiting for her to return. For it to be like it was before, when you’d do a rain dance that would barely move the net. Ask Danny Green and Shane Battier. Shane was reunited with his shot at the most opportune time. Danny’s left him sometime in Game Six. What can you do? You do what all the great shooters know to do: keep shooting. Sometime it isn’t just your shot. Sometime it is confidence that disappears. When that is gone you feel like you just learned the game, standing in the middle of the court wondering what the hell you are supposed to do next. Conversely, sometimes you feel like Neo. You see the next five moves; you, the court, the ball, your teammates are all one thing that you can control. It’s awesome. Ask LeBron and Manu. They know.
Basketball is cruel and that’s why they play best of seven and not best of one and that’s what makes Game Six so painful. Danny Green’s run was ending, while LeBron’s and Wade’s were starting again. One more game meant one more shot, one more chance to revert to the mean. Oh you didn’t know that LeBron shot a Nowitski-like career best from midrange and three point range this season? Didn’t know that Miami shot an NBA-record 55% effective field goal percentage? They did. The Spurs’ gamble nearly worked. It was bold, it was savvy. It didn’t work.
Like most things, all you can do is your best. The rest is fate and she can be unkind. The Spurs did their best. Fate was a tiny bit unkind these last two games. So it goes.
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1. Heat were favored by seven going into game six, and six going into game seven. [↩](#fnref:p53519666189-1)