MIAMI - One game. Winner take all.
Any team in sports would take those odds.
And now, after countless hours in the gym, in the air and on the court, the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs are a victory away from immortality.
For Tim Duncan, Thursday’s Game 7 is his last, best shot at adding a fifth ring to his impressive collection. For LeBron James, it’s an opportunity to exorcise any demons still remaining despite last year’s dominant Finals performance.
Some will never accept that win as a real championship, because it came in a shortened season, just as many called San Antonio’s first title, a 1999 lockout-year victory, an aberration. The Spurs won again in 2003 and twice more after that, so nobody remembers the asterisk win anymore. The Heat can do the same by repeating Thursday.
Though the winner of Game 5 takes the Finals 74% of the time (when teams were tied 2-2 after four games), momentum is clearly on Miami’s side following what transpired on Tuesday.
“We were in trouble. We were in serious, serious trouble,” recalled Shane Battier of the dying moments
“If you do the math of ... with the time on the clock, it took a miracle for us to win that game. And the miracle occurred. So we have a new lease. It’s one game. That’s all we wanted. One game on our home floor, and we know we have to play our best game to win Game 7.”
A road team hasn’t won a Game 7 since 1978.
Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are banged up and Manu Ginobili has had two of the worst games of his career in this series.
Yet, how many times have the Spurs been written off? How many times have they been “dead” the way Miami’s Chris Bosh said the Heat seemed to be Tuesday, only to emerge as the last team standing?
Plus, San Antonio aired out all grievances and commiserated about the worst losses of everyone’s careers at a post-game meal and has rebounded from four previous losses in these playoffs to cruise by about 20 points.
“We have a chance to move past this and come out with a new attitude, a new face,” said Danny Green, who finally cooled down.
Back in 2005, the Spurs beat Detroit in Game 5 of the Finals, dropped Game 6, but then rallied to take the finale.
“Tony, Manu and I have been in this position before,” said Tim Duncan ominously.
“We’re here for one reason only: It’s to try to win this game (Thursday).”
Unfortunately for the Spurs, James is standing in the way.
The best player of his generation is antsy to put a nail in the coffin of the best player of the previous one.
“I’m going to be excited. I’m going to have some butterflies. I’ll be nervous. Everything. That’s how I should be,” said James, looking and sounding nothing like the shell-shocked superstar that faded against the Dallas Mavericks on this stage two years ago.
“The moment is going to be grand. Like I said, I’m happy to be a part of it.
“I mean, I’m blessed, man. I don’t even know how I got here. I wasn’t supposed to be in the NBA, if you go by statistics and things of me growing up where I grew up (Akron, Ohio).”
James has grown up and that’s a terrifying thought for the rest of the league.
“No criticism can deter me from playing this game because of that. I’m not supposed to be here. The fact that I’m doing what I’m doing and doing it for my teammates, it’s all that matters,” he said.
James admitted that he had already thought ahead about what winning back-to-back titles would mean.
“I thought about it for sure. It’s human nature. I want to go down as one of the greatest. I want our team to go down as one of the greatest teams.
“And we have an opportunity to do that.”
One more win and Miami will be well on its way.
HURT WADE HURTING HEAT
Dwyane Wade’s not right and team loyalty to the star might sting the Heat in Game 7.
Just as Oklahoma City continued to trot out Thunder coach Scott Brooks favourite Kendrick Perkins a year ago, though he was clearly hurting and not helping the squad, Miami keeps running out Wade.
Wade’s no Perkins — normally — he’s a superstar, one of the NBA’s most talented all-around players. Just not this version.
Not the guy who came into the series limping, before limping considerably more following a few collisions, most recently when he banged knees in Game 6.
The numbers might deceive sometimes, but they don’t in this series. Outside of one dominant performance, Wade has struggled mightily, mostly at the defensive end of the floor, and Miami has been far more effective without him on the court.
Wade admitted his knee was swollen and stiff on Wednesday, but indicated he would fight through it. No surprise there, he’s a warrior. The Heat will have to make the tough decision of limiting his time, because Wade certainly won’t be for it.
“There’s one game left,” he said.
“Whatever you have inside of you, you muster it up, you give it. So I’ll be fine.”