Game 7 of the NBA finals! The ultimate test of mental and physical strength played out on a 94’x50′ hardwood floor. A chess match between 24 of the finest athletes on the planet where the winner will be crowned champion and the loser will have a long summer of soul searching. A game where a superstar can solidify a hall of fame resume or a virtual unknown can rise to the challenge and provide inspiration for every kid shooting a basketball the world over. Larry has prevailed. Magic has prevailed. Kobe has prevailed. Tonight the stage is set to see if LeBron can continue his ascent to greatness or will Tim Duncan join Magic and Kobe with 5 titles?
No team has yet to win two games in a row. The Spurs put forth a phenomenal effort in Game 6 to come so tantalizingly close that the Heat security were readying the trophy presentation until two missed foul shots, a LeBron 3 and a Ray Allen dagger miraculously sent the game to overtime and ultimately saved the Heat’s season.
And saved LeBron’s legacy for another day. Let’s face it, the heir apparent to Air Jordan has been struggling with the defensive sets the Spurs are showing him. His hesitancy to shoot the pull up jumper with confidence and his limited repertoire of post moves have been on display for all to see. Another finals loss would be catastrophic for his reputation because fair or not, he’s held to the MJ standard.
Even with his shooting deficiencies, LeBron still plays a brilliant floor game every night out. His defense of Parker (6-23 shooting) was nothing short of sensational and his ability to find the open man rivals any elite point guard in the game. One can only imagine what LeBron would look like playing with a guard that could get into the lane and draw doubles to free him up to slash without the ball. It’s just that we have grown accustomed to witnessing his athletic superiority on a nightly basis so when this Spurs team, similar to Dallas in 2011, have exploited his weaknesses and taken him out of attack mode it’s baffling to see.
Credit Pop. Credit Duncan. The Spurs are a perfectly balanced team, but to be seconds away from hoisting a trophy only to watch it slip away due to a series of mistakes, missed calls and perfect execution on the Heat’s part may be too much to overcome. Duncan left it all on the floor and may not have enough in reserve to duplicate the effort. Ginobili looks like he may have made his final stand in helping win Game 5. How the Spurs stars at their advanced age summon the energy to win a Game 7 on the road with only one day of rest remains to be seen.
In the other locker room D. Wade is clearly playing injured and with the exception of his insane performance in Game 4, he tends to vanish in the 2nd half. Bosh was instrumental in bailing out the Heat in the final minutes of Game 6, but he’s essentially been reduced to a sub 50% spot up shooter who is struggling with the defensive assignment of guarding Duncan straight up.
As is the case with most NBA Finals, it’s going to come down to an X-factor. Think John Paxton, Robert Horry or even Mike Miller last year in game 5 when he hit 7 three’s to help the Heat clinch. The Big 3’s will likely offset each other so it’s going to boil down to which role players get hot. Look at the game as Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Gary Neal, Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter vs Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Birdman. The side who wins that battle will likely be the side spraying champagne and shaking David Sterns hand.
It’s going to be a one for the ages, one for the record books and the perfect way to say goodbye to basketball until next October!