44 MINs agoSportsHeat Top Spurs in OT to Force Game 7

Miami's Chris Bosh blocks Danny Green's game-tying three-pointer in the dying seconds as Heat hang on to win an instant classic.

By Chris Herring

Miami Heat center Chris Bosh blocks the final shot of the game by San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Danny Green to end Game 6 of the NBA Finals Tuesday in Miami.

European Pressphoto Agency
MIAMI—After watching unheralded San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green light his team up for an NBA Finals-record 25 three-pointers through the first five games of the series, Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh had a message ahead of Tuesday’s Game 6.

“He won’t be open tonight,” he vowed at Miami’s morning shootaround.

Bosh held to his word on the final play, when he blocked Green’s potential game-tying three to seal a Heat victory, 103-100, and set the stage for Thursday’s Game 7 here, which will decide this year’s league champion.

Tuesday’s game, easily one of the best the league has seen in recent history, continued the seesaw series, as the winning team has alternated through each of the first six games. But this matchup had all the late-stage dramatics that the previous four meetings—all with double-digits margins—lacked.

The Spurs, who had a five-point cushion at 94-89 with 28 seconds left in regulation, were in prime position to win their fifth NBA title; so much so that scores of nonbelieving Heat fans had already left the arena in anticipation of a season-ending loss.

But LeBron James (32 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds) hit a triple from the wing to cut it two. And after the defending champs intentionally fouled the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard (22 points, 11 rebounds) to send him to the line, the second-year swingman missed a free throw, which left the door open for the Heat to tie it.

Miami’s Ray Allen, open after a huge offensive rebound by Bosh, did just that, hitting a three from the corner with just five seconds left to knot the score at 95. “When it went in, I was ecstatic,” said Allen, the league’s all-time leader in three-pointers, who was signed by Miami this past off-season for precisely such occasions. “But at the same time, I was expecting to make it.”

San Antonio’s Tony Parker enjoyed success on clutch shots earlier in the game (he knotted it at 89 with a long three-pointer with 1:30 left in regulation) and in the series (he sealed Game 1 with a circus shot in the closing seconds). But he couldn’t get off a good look against James—who, in a strategic change, defended the Frenchman for much of the game—and the contest went to overtime.

Both sides played a relatively even extra period, and the Spurs had a second chance to win the game on a last shot when Manu Ginobili aggressively drove down the lane and drew contact, but got nothing out of it, other than a turnover. He pleaded with officials for a foul (overlooking the fact that he might have traveled himself) to no avail, and Allen hit a pair of free throws to put the Heat up three, the final margin they’d win by.

Ginobili’s play summed up his night in a nutshell. One game after being the hero, with 24 points and 10 assists, he finished with just nine points and three assists. Far more important, and unfortunate for the Spurs: Ginobili finished with a career-high eight turnovers, and the team was outscored by 21 points with him on the floor.

The nature of the loss was a tough blow for San Antonio, which has a championship pedigree, but—with its aging core players—could be spent by the time Thursday’s deciding game rolls around.

In particular, the 31-year-old Parker (19 points on 6-for-23 shooting), clearly exhausted by the time the extra period had rolled around, was pulled from the overtime, and had a towel on his head as the team huddled for its final timeout.

And 37-year-old Tim Duncan—who gave a vintage performance in which he logged 30 points and 17 rebounds—also needed breathers down the stretch in his 44-minute showing. (Miami is built around Dwyane Wade, James and Bosh, who are 31, 28 and 29, respectively.)

“I have no clue how we’re going to be re-energized. We’re devastated,” Ginobili, 35, said after the game. “But we have to [bounce back]. There is no Game 8.”

San Antonio’s loss ruined a handful of key moments that had gone in their favor. Duncan, buoyed by Miami’s defensive scheme to take away Green, had by far his best game of the series. He made his first seven shots and went off for 25 points in the first half, outscoring Miami’s superstar trio by himself in that window. As such, the team built up a sizable 13-point lead at one point in the third period.

But the Heat, led by a focused James, battled back early in the fourth. The reigning MVP, who’d struggled to score through the first three quarters (in which he shot 3-of-14), came to life late in the game, while Wade (14 points) was on the bench. A handful of statistics suggested Wade’s absence—which has typically spaced out the Spurs’ defense by forcing them to play Miami’s perimeter shooters more honestly—helped James find a rhythm.

James shot 5-for-17 when playing alongside Wade, but 6-of-9 with his star teammate (ailing with injured knees) off the floor. Beyond that, James took a much greater percentage of his shots near the rim when Wade was on the bench resting, too.

James—who began playing more aggressively after a physical third-quarter sequence where he lost his trademark headband (and after teammate Mike Miller made a three without one of his shoes)—said he simply felt a need to rise to the occasion.

“I told myself, ‘Give it all you got.’ If we go down losing, I’m going to go down with no bullets,” said James, who had 18 of his game-high 32 points in the fourth period and overtime.

Truth be told, it looked like both teams emptied nearly everything they had left in the tank during Tuesday’s instant classic. But each side will have to find a way to muster what they can for Thursday. Because, for as great as Game 6 was, Game 7 is all that matters as far as the history books are concerned.



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