It seems like every game in this series is a must-win one for the Miami Heat, but on the verge of ending up as the losers in the 2013 NBA Finals, the game 6 situation is really that, while the San Antonio Spurs are once again riding the confidence wave, believing that they won’t need a 7th clash to clinch their fifth NBA championship.
The difference makers? Too many to count. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are the obvious choices, but there are others. Kawhi Leonard has been a handful, both with his offense (averaging 12.2 points per game), but his rebounding has been excellent (10.2), not to mention his defense on both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Danny Green hasn’t been able to miss three pointers. Boris Diaw came back to life and importance in this series with his defense on James (forcing him to 1-of-8 from the field when guarding him) in game 5.
For the Miami Heat, it’ll be about Ray Allen reproducing his shooting from game 5 (7-of-10 from the field, 21 points) in more than just a desperate attempt to get back from 20 points down. Mario Chalmers needs to get his game together, and forget about his 2-for-10 performance, not to mention his terrible decision making all over the floor. Udonis Haslem needs to make himself useful again.
But there are other factors, those loved by people really into stats. History doesn’t have any effect on this one game (which might turn out to be two games), but still, there are some numbers from the past worth mentioning.
1. This is the third time since the beginning of the 2-3-2 format in the NBA finals that neither team has won two consecutive games through the first five. In both previous instances, the Game 5 winner ended the trend and took the title in Game 6. The Spurs in 2003, and the Chicago Bulls in 1992.
2. Since the 2002-2003 season, NBA teams are 61-75 (44.9%) when trying to clinch a playoff series away from home. The San Antonio Spurs, however, are almost perfect, with a 14-2 record (87.5%) in this situation.
3. Only three teams in the NBA Finals since the beginning of the 2-3-2 format managed to rally back from being 2-3 down, winning the final two games on their home court: The Los Angeles Lakers in 1988 & 2010, and the Houston Rockets in 1994.
But what does it come down to? The Miami Heat playing defense, like in the first two games and game 4. Danny Green can’t be left open, but more importantly will be making the right switches on Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, who thrived as ball handlers in pick & roll situations during the Spurs’ good minutes in game 5, always finding the right man to attack. If the Heat get enough minutes of stopping that from happening, that’s their best shot of taking us to a game 7.
Prediction – The mindset for the Heat can’t be about two games. There are only 48 minutes left for them in the season, and they have to come out as winners from them when the final buzzer is heard. Thinking beyond that would only take away from the concentration. As for the Spurs, we’ve picked against them all throughout this series, and although momentum is on their side again, I think fatigue is going to play a factor because of the 2-day rest, while we’re also about watching another game being player. Heat take it to 7.