Morning Shootaround: NBA Finals Game 7 (OH MY GOD!)
This is the end. The only thing we know for certain is that the NBA will officially close another season in about 7 hours or so.
But who will be holding the trophy?
Before we delve into Game 7 thoughts, please read this piece from the always terrific Zach Lowe over at Grantland. After Game 6’s heartbreak, it’s always good to get some perspective. Lowe’s holistic and deterministic view is one I most frequently adopt, but was having some trouble doing so in the wake of Tuesday night.
Today I feel great, though. I’m not quite sure why, but I love our chances.
Or maybe I’m just pleased to get one more chance to watch this particular iteration of this team that has been so enjoyable these last 2 years. It’s rare to get a team that plays so well together, really seem to enjoy playing together, and stay in tact for such a long duration of team. In the best way possible, we are truly spoiled as Spurs fans, and we should all remember that and cherish tonight’s game.
After that, let’s throw out all numbers, history, predictions, often empty words like “momentum”, “choke”, etc. You can argue any point you want any way a million times. The most daunting of these would be that a visiting team hasn’t won a Game 7 in the Finals since the late 1970s. But that will only be true until it’s not, which could be as early as tonight. While Miami certainly has a decided edge by playing at home, I don’t think the Spurs are all that intimidated playing on the Heat’s court. They won Game 1, and very nearly won Game 6. They can win Game 7 in Miami.
An NBA Finals Game 7 is a beast unto itself. Even for the best athletes in the world, trained their entire lives for such moments, the weight and pressure of the moment and occasion is probably a bit too much. There is just too much juice, too much hyperbole, too much at stake, too much energy, too much “too much”. By the same token, both teams are weary from the long battle of the season, the post-season, and the series. This is the 7th time in two weeks these two teams have played. They know each other too well. Rhythm and flow and execution are hard to come by consistently in these conditions.
So the game will be vicious (in the best of ways), energetic, and most likely close; but it might not be elegant or pretty.
In these conditions, I like the Spurs’ chances. Because if there is a team trained to rise above such things, even by the slightest of margins, to block out the noise, to have a short memory, to fight on and play the same no matter the circumstance, it’s these Spurs. If too much “too much” becomes “just almost too much” for anybody, it’s Duncan and Parker and Pop (and probably Leonard, truthfully).
And if experience counts for anything, we have 4 veterans of a Finals’ Game 7: Duncan, Parker, Pop, and Manu.
So what changes, if any, should we expect? This is where things get fun and interesting. With literally no Game 8 looming and nothing at all to rest for, a team must push every chip to the middle of the table, saving nothing. Rotations tighten, minutes go up; you put your best out against their best, and you battle for as long as you can. I love it.
But the question, ironically, still remains for both teams: what is our best?
And for each team, it comes down to one iconic player clearly not at his best: Wade and Ginobili. Both were pretty bad in Game 6. Though Wade did make some nice hustle plays at the end of regulation and OT, he looked physically shot, and it’s no mistake that the Heat made their push early in the 4th with Wade on the bench, and San Antonio made their counter-push (to be up 5 with a half minute left) once he returned. He is killing offensive spacing and can often be caught cheating or resting on D. Will Spoelstra have a short leash on Wade?
For the Spurs, we all know of Ginobili’s struggles, Game 5 excepted. Game 6 seemed to be a best of his worst. Turnovers at inopportune times, bad fouls, careless plays. He was borderline a train wreck. It’s no surprise that our best line-up didn’t include him.
Our best line-up is: Duncan, Parker, Green, Leonard, and Diaw.
What I really like about this line-up is it gives us huge defensive flexibility. If Diaw can continue to work his voodoo on LeBron, that frees up Leonard to basically remove Wade from the game, and give Green an assignment well within his capabilities. It also allows us flexibility in switching and cross-matching. Diaw gives us the additional playmaking and passing apart from Parker that is necessary to beat the Heat’s defense.
I think this line-up should start. Neal can play 10-15 minutes to spell the guards, and Ginobili can play anywhere from 15-30 minutes, depending on which Ginobili we have out there. Splitter will play 8-10 minutes to spell Duncan. Outside of that, I see no other players playing if the game is tight. Leonard (secretly the best Spurs player in this series) might play the full 48. Go to battle with your best.
And after all of this, 6 amazing games (even the blowouts), the best the world has to offer, the series might come down to which shell-of-himself star will have the most impactful game? Or, which coach will have the balls to sit his shell-of-himself star?
I’ll close with this: we all know of Jacob Riis’ famous “pounding the rock” quote that is the backbone of the Spurs’ philosophy, but here’s another gem from Riis (h/t, Caleb Saenz):
“Some defeats are only installments to victory.”
By both counts, tonight is a Jacob Riis game. A fitting way to end the season.
Enough talk; let’s roll it out and get this game going.
5 for 21.
Go Spurs Go.
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