The 2013 NBA Finals will forever be remembered as the series where LeBron James stepped up when it mattered the most leading his team to the title for the 2nd year in a row. James continues to come closer and closer to cementing his legacy as one of the greatest players to ever play in the NBA.
But for the San Antonio Spurs, the 2013 Finals will be known as the one that got away. Up by 5 with 28 seconds left in Game 6, the Spurs could taste the championship and had Miami exactly where they wanted them. San Antonio had contained LeBron James as good as anyone all season, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade had become shells of themselves, and no one else was giving the Heat consistent offense. Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, and Ray Allen were all up and down throughout the series.
Then Spurs coach Gregg Popovich decided to get fancy, taking Tim Duncan out of the game for 2 straight defensive possessions. The Heat got 2 offensive rebounds leading to 2nd chance opportunities on both possessions. Miami hit consecutive three’s to tie the game at 95, including an extraordinary 3 by Allen. Missed free throws by Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili also contributed.
If Duncan had been on the court instead of Boris Diaw, like he should have, it’s more likely than not the Spurs get at least one, if not both rebounds that went to the Heat. Popovich should have won or lost with his star, and he chose to have Diaw instead of Duncan with the championship in the Spurs grasp.
It’s not like Duncan deserved to leave the game, he was a game high +16 when on the court and was the leading rebounder with 17. One rebound, that’s all it would have took. Although you have to give credit to Ray Allen and James for hitting those shots under enormous pressure.
The Spurs went on to lose Game 6 in overtime with Ginobili turning the ball over 2 crucial times in the session.
Popovich’s explanation for the decision was he wanted to have more speed on the perimeter to defend the 3. That’s understandable, but with Bosh on the court, there had to be someone who could have matched up with him for a rebound, and there wasn’t.
The Heat came into Game 7 with all the momentum as well as with new life. Still, the Spurs were down just 2 points when Tim Duncan missed a hook shot he makes 99 percent of the time. His percentage may have been even higher since he was guarded by Shane Battier. Duncan’s potential game tying shot rimmed out, but he managed to get the rebound before missing a point blank tip-in.
LeBron came right back down the court following Duncan’s 2 misses and stuck a fork in it hitting a Jordan-esque championship clinching 19-foot jumper. The Spurs couldn’t have hand picked a better situation for their team. Tim Duncan having the ball against Battier in the post is a match up made in heaven, and some way, some how, it didn’t work out.
A golden opportunity for a title slipped through San Antonio’s finger tips, and with it, this Spurs teams window for winning it all. The window got wider after Russell Westbrook tore his knee up against the Rockets. If Westbrook is healthy, it’s very likely it’s a Thunder Spurs Western Conference Finals as opposed to the Grizzlies. Oklahoma City would have given the Spurs a better run for their money.
The Thunder with Durant and a healthy Russell Westbrook will be the favorites in the West next season, not San Antonio, making this Finals loss especially hard to swallow. The Spurs got the break they needed to make a Finals run, and couldn’t capitalize.