Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs have already moved on from the devastating Game 6 loss.
“If you told us we’d be tied 3-3 with a chance to win a title, we’d sign it …. It’s a great challenge. We know we can beat them here.” Parker told reporters after Miami’s comeback win. The San Antonio Spurs controlled most of that game, they played the game they wanted to play and were within 30 seconds of hoisting another championship trophy. They just couldn’t finish. The good news: no team has been able to win two games in a row during this series, a stat the Spurs hope will hold true in Game 7.
Winning an NBA title is rarely a smooth ride, San Antonio understands this better than anyone. The Spurs know exactly what it takes to win a championship, they have won four since drafting Tim Duncan in 1997. The Spurs showed their maturity immediately after the tough loss; nobody was pointing fingers, nobody was throwing people under the bus, they lost and they moved on. Critics are saying that San Antonio is going to come out tired and spent in Game 7, those people don’t know this Spurs team. Every member of this team is a competito, and understands that they are four quarters of good basketball away from achieving their goal.
When things get tough, people and players look to their leadership. Between Popovich, Duncan, Parker, and Ginóbili, the Spurs have the best leadership in the league. The Spurs will come out with fire and intensity in Game 7, and it will come from their leaders and carry over to the rest of the team. The Spurs know they can win, and they don’t care if anybody outside the locker room believes that or not.
The Heat’s main weakness is no secret, and Tim Duncan is well aware of it; they cannot match up down low with Duncan. Duncan exploited Miami’s weakness down low in Game 6, finishing with 30 points on 13-21 shooting and 17 rebounds. He was able to get great position down on the right block all night long. He made himself comfortable in the key, altering shots and pulling down rebound after rebound. Look for Duncan to come out strong and leave it all on the floor Thursday night.
Tony Parker has a knack for playing great when it means the most and it doesn’t get any bigger than Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Parker has done a great job of working the pick-and-roll, being patient or aggressive when the situation calls for it. He also gives the Heat nightmares with his ability to penetrate the defense and either score with an acrobatic layup or kick it out to the open man. Parker will rest his hamstring, watch some game film, and come out ready to go for Game 7.
Manu Ginóbili has once again proved he is the ultimate wild card. Some games in this series he has looked like Manu of old, other games have been a flat-out disaster. It is tough to tell which Ginóbili will show up, the good or the bad. Something tells me that Manu understands the enormity of this situation, that his team will not win this game and subsequent title without him. Manu will come out cautious and loosen up as the game progresses, watch out late in the game when he gets his hands on the ball.
San Antonio’s supporting cast doesn’t need to do anything extraordinary; they just need to do their individual jobs. Kawhi Leonard has been great; his shooting and rebounding have been consistently good, and his versatility on defense has been a huge factor for the Spurs. Danny Green has been nothing short of incredible; he is one more big game away from being in the mix for Finals MVP. He has hit more threes during these Finals than any other player in history, not bad for a guy who was stuck in the D-league earlier in his career. Gary Neal has been on fire behind the arc, he can add a big spark off the bench. Boris Diaw has played solid defense in short spurts against LeBron, and any rebounding he can add is gravy. Splitter has had a miserable series, he would love nothing more than a shot at redemption in the deciding Game 7.
So why will San Antonio win Game 7? They have the experience, they have the leadership, and they have the determination.