So we’ve come to the very end of the road for the 2013 NBA Finals. Down to one game to decide who’s the better team, the aging San Antonio Spurs led by 36 year old PF Tim Duncan and Coach Gregg Popovich or the Miami Heat led by defending MVP PF LeBron James and Coach Eric Spoelstra.
As much nail biting and anguish as I’ve gone through so far, now that I think of it, I can’t really ask for much more than this. There has been plenty of excitement, overtime games (like last night!), coming back from double digit deficits in the 4th quarter(Spurs, Heat, Warriors), Cinderella stories (Warriors, Nuggets, Chicago, Rockets), and tons of action and captivating moments from any number of NBA All-Stars. Now that everything is just about finished, we’ve got one more game left to preview.
Tomorrow night, Thursday June 20th, 2013 at around 8:30 pm EST, the Heat face the Spurs in a one game winner-take-all death match, at home in Miami, for all the marbles.
I don’t want to hear anything about who’s getting old, or who can’t make big time shots, who’s favored to win by how much, none of that matters anymore. Any team that takes another team to 7 games in the NBA Finals has played their hearts out and should be considered a great team in my book. That being said, only one team is going home with the crown.
Who’s it going to be?
-Keys to Miami Winning the Game:
1. Aggressive, intelligent, gambling, trapping, suffocating defense. This team is younger in age nearly across the board than the Spurs, who are also quite good defensively. The major difference is the athleticism and youth to be able to take shots at knocking balls loose, doubling players in the corners and still being able to get back to interior defense to force the ball back outside.
Too many times this series Miami has been forced into a react-only mode, allowing the extremely intelligent and veteran Spurs to have their pick of who to take the shot at any given moment. They will need to play stifling defense, making blocks here and there and getting offensive rebounds regardless of playing without a true center. Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen and CB3 will have to focus and bring their A game to fight for every rebound.
2. The King must show the Spurs what they get for attempting to defend him. LeBron James is not just another NBA Superstar. He is not an aging Tim Duncan or even a Tony Parker, meaning he is SUPPOSED to get 25-7-7 a game. That’s nothing out of the ordinary. With Wade being slowed by a knee injury and Bosh being well Bosh at times, the game will swing on his ability to get his teammates open looks, driving through traffic to make tough baskets with touch, and drawing fouls while doing so.
I couldn’t say it more clearly than this:
LeBron James is not Magic Johnson. His entire team plays better when he’s attacking the defense, drawing triple coverage on one side of the basket while making astute, non-lazy passes to the open shooter whether it’s Mike Miller, Ray Allen, or one of the other Big 3. If he starts off as slowly as he has over the past couple games, if he can’t be decisive and quick to allow open looks, he will have to rely on his supernatural ability to make his own shots and put the team on his back. It’s time.
Now all you have to do is win.
3. Cover those Amazing Bench Players! Not enough can be said about those Spurs shooters coming off the bench to give their aging “Big 3” a rest and support. Danny Green and Gary Neal have been playing light’s out throughout this series. There have been times during this series when they were either open or barely covered, and they made Miami pay big time at the end of quarters, on buzzer-beating shots, on way downtown threes and desperation shots. Miami must force them to put the ball on the floor to at least give them something to think about. If they are open or even allowed to make lightly contested jump shots immediately after getting passes, this game will be much more difficult to win.
4. Play like every game might be your last. Tomorrow really will be the last game of the year for both teams win or lose, but this has been a troubling portent of disaster throughout this series, and even back into last series against the Indiana Pacers. Just because you won one game does not mean you can rest on your laurels and play the next one at a leisurely pace.
This kind of thinking led to Miami being defeated by the Dallas Mavericks in year one of the Big 3 Era. They were comforted and secure after leading the Mavericks 2 games to 1, let their foot off the gas pedal, and ended up losing 3 straight games to close out the season. The reason they managed to eliminate the Oklahoma City Thunder last year in 5 games comes down to their ability to shut out distractions, focus on what needs to be done on the court, and trust in their teammates and their own abilities without rest or break.
No Twitter feeds, no Facebook messages, pokes, or likes, no charity golf tournament or youth basketball league. Not even phone calls or text messages from their girlfriends, wives and family (outside of emergency calls), were allowed, a self-imposed restriction for reasons of (DUH!), WINNING A CHAMPIONSHIP!
There are no more second chances to be given, no mulligans or do-overs for whichever team loses in game 7. Miami is more than capable of taking the Spurs down big time tomorrow night, but it’s going to take everyone playing through pain and suffering for the Big 3 to successfully defend their crown.
[PS: Ok, maybe their championship last year had a little to do with LeBron taking less 3 point shots, working on his inside game with Hakeem Olajuwon in the off season, learning to use his body to shield shots, posting up and playing fundamental “big” basketball. It just didn’t fit with where my flow of thoughts were going a little earlier, so meh, just deal with it. -Mikey]