The 2013 NBA Finals was a basketball black hole that captivated every ounce of energy I had. It didn’t let me see anything else. All I saw was LeBron‘s block on Tiago Splitter, Danny Green‘s shooting barrage in Game 3, Ray Allen‘s three-pointer in Game 6, and LeBron’s jump shot in Game 7. These great moments made it the greatest NBA Finals I have seen in some time. Legacies were furthered. Moments were instilled.
This was the Spurs first “mega” Finals, a chance for Parker, Duncan and Ginobili to play in front of an audience that wouldn’t roll their eyes out of boredom. They had an opponent who brought the ratings. They just had to bring their “A” game. Both teams did just that and it translated into a seven-game slugfest before the best player in the world dragged his team to victory. The audience bought into the hype. Game 6 was an ABC viewership record for a non-clinching game with 20.636 million, according to Nielsen. As it should’ve, the roller coaster ride of emotions this year coalesced with the two best teams meeting up in the Finals.
Before Game 1, most wanted to see if LeBron could get revenge after losing to the Spurs in 2007 with Cleveland. The Spurs were supposed to come out rusty, pundits citing the long layoff as a legitimate reason for a slow start. The storyline quickly moved to basketball after a marvelous Game 1 in Miami.
By the end, the narrative centered on Tony Parker’s ridiculous bank shot with the shot clock expiring. Parker was the star, completely dominating Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers, bullying them in the lane and utilizing his trademark floater. His ability to get into the lane made the ball movement of the Spurs look effortless and the pick-n-roll game with Duncan look vintage. The forgotten play of this game was Duncan’s buzzer-beater at the end of the first half, which dented the Heat’s lead to three and deafened some of their momentum.
Some interesting stats from that game were the zero points that Dwyane Wade scored in the fourth quarter and the four turnovers that the Spurs had, tying a Finals record.
In Game 2, the Heat had 13 fast-break points and caused 16 turnovers, 12 more than they did in Game 1. The extra possessions allowed the Heat to slash-n-kick, scoring 46 points in the paint while shooting 52.6 percent from three-point range. Duncan admitted the Heat played better and were able to finish quarters better than the Spurs. That was the key as the Heat went on a 14-3 run at the end of the third to go up 10 going. To cap things off, James blocked Splitter as he rumbled through the lane, trying to throw down a one-handed dunk. The Heat would go on to win this one by 19.
So that was the real Heat, right? The rest of the series would be a coronation? Some analysts believed it. Boy, were they wrong. Back home, the Spurs came out shooting and didn’t stop until the scoreboard showed they’d won by 36 points. Traffic couldn’t even stop them. It was James’ worst game of the Finals. He scored only 15 points. Gary Neal and Danny Green combined to go 13-for-19 from three-point range. Yet the biggest play of this game might have come when Parker aggravated his right hamstring in the first half, limiting him for the rest of the Finals.
The Miami Heat “Big 3” showed up in the Game 4. It’s tough for any team to beat the Heat when they are clicking on all cylinders, especially when James, Bosh and Wade combined for 85 points, 10 steals, 30 rebounds and one incredible flop.
(via Bleacher Report)
They were efficient from the field, shooting a combined 57.8 percent. Yet the game wasn’t a blowout from the get-go. The Spurs kept it close until the fourth quarter as Tony Parker scored all of his 15 points in the first half. But seven fourth quarter turnovers would put the game out of reach for the Spurs, tying the series at two apiece.
In the final game in Texas, the Spurs gave the fans what they came to see. Manu Ginobili, who struggled throughout the series, was placed into the starting lineup and delivered 24 points and 10 assists. Danny Green hit six three-pointers to break the NBA Finals record for triples in a series, set by Ray Allen in 2008. Parker bounced back with 26 points, and the Spurs made a key run during the second half, outscoring the Heat 18-2. That would be enough to secure the win.
Game 6 will live on as the game that defined this series… not as the Spurs choking, but as an incredible game that was won by the Heat. It was the “Headband Game,” a game where LeBron turned in a fourth quarter for the ages. He scored 16 points in the fourth quarter, and finished the game with 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. The Spurs had a five-point lead with 28 seconds left but were unable to finish the game after a few big three-pointers by James and Allen, both coming off offensive rebounds with Duncan sitting on the bench. That folly by Gregg Popovich cost them the game.
Bosh played good defense on Duncan in the second half, limiting him to five points after he scorched the Heat for 25 in the first half. He made his contributions felt at the end of the game with a block on Danny Green, preventing a second overtime. Bosh stated before the game that Green would have trouble getting open.
Game 7, as usual, started out sloppy. But it was a close, contested game where neither team got much of the control. Green shot poorly, going 1-for-12 and showing off his limited ballhandling while James and Wade put on a shooting clinic as they hit jumpers from all over the court. James would end the night with five three-pointers and 37 points.
However, the key point in the game came with about 50 seconds left. Duncan had Shane Battier defending him and with his size advantage, got off a clean right-handed hook in the middle of the lane. The shot bounced off the back iron, reminding me too much of the Patrick Ewing shot in the 1995 Playoffs. James would go on to hit a jump shot to extend the lead to four before Ginobili turned the ball over, sealing a championship for the Heat.
James has now won his second championship, and the dreams set by the Miami “Big 3” remain in tact. They should be the favorite in 2014. James seemed candid and open in his postgame interview, showing that winning the second championship probably took even more of a burden off his shoulders. He’s smart enough to realize exactly what’s happening in this moment.
On the other side of the coin, we await word of whether Ginobili calls it quits. Reporters even questioned whether Popovich and Duncan would retire before Duncan pointed to his contract and Popovich pointed to how overrated vacations are.
This was Duncan’s chance to capture three titles in three different decades. That’ll have to wait. Even if we lose one “Big Three,” even if Duncan or Ginobili retires, it’ll be important to remember how boring the Spurs really are, right? They’re so boring they were involved in one of the best Finals series ever, a team built on individual willingness to work within a system. Yeah, they were anything but boring, pushing the Heat to the brink in a super entertaining NBA Finals. In realizing Miami’s greatness, it’s also important to remember the Spurs. In the end, San Antonio was so good they made it all the sweeter for Chris Bosh and the rest of Miami when the final buzzer sounded.
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