By Dennis Glade
WASHINGTON — Game 7.
There are no two words that mean more in team sports. It needs no explanation. The players, coaches, fans and reporters all know we can and should expect the unexpected tonight in Miami.
This year’s Game 7 goes to an entirely different level considering what we have seen for the first six games. Coming into the series, nobody really knew what we’d see, but we did expect an even, competitive series. What we have gotten is a disjointed set of games that have made no sense and offered zero momentum from game to game.
There have been two games - 1 and 6 - that were close, and - 2-5 were blowouts.
Every time we think we know what is going to happen the script gets flipped in a shocking way. Game 6 was no different in the best kind of way. Miami was a big favorite to force a Game 7 Tuesday night, but through three quarters the Spurs held a 75-65 advantage and LeBron James had just 12 points on 3-of-12 shooting.
What happened over the next 12 minutes was the most dizzying, spectacular fourth quarter in NBA Finals history.
James removed his trademark headband and dominated the Spurs for nine minutes only to have Tony Parker score five straight points to give the Spurs a 91-89 lead. James committed back breaking turnovers on back-to-back possessions and Manu Ginobili went 3-for-4 at the free throw line. James made a 3-pointer, Kawhi Leonard split two free throws and Ray Allen tied the game at 95 with 5.2 seconds to play.
Just like that, the Heat had bought five more minutes of life and they would win 103-100 in overtime. As for the Spurs, no NBA team had ever come so close to winning a title, without actually winning the title.
Security at American Airlines Arena had started to rope off the court and started to wheel out the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy when San Antonio held a five-point lead with 28 seconds to play. The only instance in sports history even remotely relatable to what the Spurs missed out on was the Boston Red Sox losing Game 6 of the 1986 World Series ¬ we all know how Game 7 ended for that team.
Crushing losses happen in the NBA Finals, but not like this, and not to this team. The Spurs have won four championships since 1999, and shockingly have never trailed in an NBA Finals on their way to a 4-0 record in the championship round. Missed free throws and Ginobili’s eight turnovers doomed the most mentally strong team in the NBA on basketball’s greatest stage.
What remains is a winner-take-all Game 7 for the NBA Championship and so much more. There is so much at stake for all involved. Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich going for a fifth title in 14 years to put themselves as the third best coach-player duo in NBA history. Tony Parker could win his fourth title and stake his claim as the game¹s greatest point guard since Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
On the flip side the Miami Heat face a mountain of criticism which is waiting for them following a loss at all times.
LeBron James faces skeptics at every turn and one late game misstep, turnover or missed shot will bring the barrage of hatred and talk of his legacy. A loss will ratchet up talk about trading Chris Bosh and breaking up Miami’s Big 3. James has a chance to repeat as a champion, which is something not many players can attach to their legacy.
No one knows what to expect in Game 7, and that¹s what is going to make tonight so special.