Duncan, James

There’s nothing like a game 7, and the 2013 NBA finals, which have mostly been about blowout wins, produced a soon to be legendary late turn of events from both the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat, both hoping to be the team with a bit more left in the tank in order to come out holding the championship trophy.

All eyes are on LeBron James, who had a very inconsistent performance in game 6. But James inconsistent performances can end up with triple doubles, something that doesn’t usually happen in NBA finals, especially when you’re playing rather bad through the first three quarters.

Before game 6, Manu Ginobili seemed to have cleared his name, showing he’s a legitimate star and big-time player once again, but an awful performance, lacking any sort of poise and confidence in the final minutes, to which he later admitted. There will plenty of attention on him, and how he manages to climb from the hole he and Gregg Popovich dug for themselves.

Tactics and strategy have been thrown out the window. Both teams have made their choices over the last couple of weeks about who they’re going with, but there’s always a chance that desperation creates ingenuity, or at least a certain courage to change things up. The Miami Heat have given up on Norris Cole being their backup point guard, not playing a single minute in game 6, while Chris Andersen, for his defense and rebounding, was back in the picture. That should be the initial mindset in game 7 as well from Spoelstra.

As for the Spurs, Popovich knows that he needs once again a great start to win this game. It seems that all through these playoffs, including the Indiana series, the Miami Heat have been chasing their opponents for the most part of each game. If they finally manage to reverse that trend and grab the bull by its horns from the first moment, creating some transition offense and early turnovers, it might pave the way for a much more consistent performance from the defending NBA champions.

There are the meaningless stats to consider – The Heat haven’t won consecutive games in the finals or conference finals; the Spurs have always rebounded from a loss in this postseason with a win, by an average of 18.5 points; the last time a team won an NBA finals game 7 on the road was 35 years ago; only two teams over the last 30 NBA finals and conference finals have won a game 7 on the road, the last of them being the Detroit Pistons over the Miami Heat in 2005.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, there are the more meaningful things to consider – how do the Spurs reorganize their defense in order to stop James from playing the way he did in the fourth quarter without giving up too much space for Chalmers, Miller and Allen, all three booming with confidence. Meanwhile, knowing that Tim Duncan isn’t going to be able to perform like a superstar for 40 minutes doesn’t mean he can be allowed to score at will for an entire half.

Offensively, both sides need to make adjustments, the Heat probably more. Parker isn’t going to be as bad once again, unless James enters full lockdown mode and stays the entire game on him. For Miami, there has to be a lot more movement and a lot less isolation, especially when Diaw and Duncan are on the floor, to prevent the long minutes of no points that have been the bread and butter for the Spurs in this series.

Prediction – Loyalty is important, and we’ve been loyal to the Miami Heat through these playoffs. Now that they’ve forced a game 7, I don’t think LeBron James gets shaky hands in the final few minutes, while the difficulty of winning a game 7 on the road while there’s not a lot left in you is going to be too much for the Spurs. It couldn’t have been closer than game 6 was, and it’s impossible to foresee who wins if it goes down to the wire once more, but in the grand scheme of things, it feels like the Heat are finally in a place where they can play good enough basketball for a long period of time in order to win consecutive games for the first time since the conference semifinals.

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