There’s only so much Tim Duncan can do. After a heroic first half in which he tortured Chris Bosh in the low post, age and fatigue finally kicked in. The problem? When the game was on the line in the fourth quarter Gregg Popovich didn’t have him on the floor, and in overtime, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili messed up badly enough for Duncan’s great game 6 of the NBA finals not really matter.
For one half, it was a Tim Duncan we’ve rarely seen this season and at all for quite some time. The Miami Heat gave up on double teams in order to keep Danny Green from continuing his barrage from downtown (which worked quite well, scoring only 3 points on a 1-for-7 night, cooling down all the MVP talk about him once everyone saw that when guarded, he isn’t an All-Star just yet), which allowed Duncan to have his own solo-session with Bosh.
So after 25 points in the first half, already posting a double double in that time, Duncan ran out of gas. He didn’t score at all after the third quarter, but his absence was mostly felt when he wasn’t on the floor while the Miami Heat grabbed two offensive rebound to hit two three-pointers to put them in overtime. Duncan and Popovich both said that it’s part of their usual way, but you couldn’t help but feel it was simply a mistake by Popovich, something people don’t like to point out.
Just like Frank Vogel did with Roy Hibbert in the first game of the conference final, only there’s a lot less time to set things right. Manu Ginobili had has confidence beaten to a pulp for the second time in three games, and it’s going to be much harder bringing it back this time. Tony Parker was once again struggling with cramps and spent a lot of time on the bench at unexpected minutes, and yet they all played a lot more than usual.
The number of players who can effect a series seem to wither down as it goes on. Now that the Miami Heat have found an answer to Danny Green, most of his usefulness becomes on defense. Kawhi Lenoard has been awesome, adding 22 points and 11 rebounds, but the Spurs need Parker (who finished with 6-of-23 from the field for 19 points and 8 assists) at his healthiest, or the closest they can get him to that.
They need Manu Ginobili at a functioning mode. Not the lacking confidence player we saw on the final plays, turning the ball over on the final possession, and finishing the game with only five field goal attempts in 35 minutes, while turning the ball over 8 times, more than half of his team’s (15 altogether).
Momentum has nothing to do with anything in this series, and yet this one is a special case. The yellow tape was already in place to stop anyone from stepping on the court. The San Antonio Spurs had a four point lead with 28 seconds left in the game. A championship within striking distance, and they blew it.
Some might say they choked, but Tony Parker’s huge five point swing near the end of the fourth quarter begs to differ. They simply didn’t make enough plays on both ends of the floor with the clock ticking down, while the Miami Heat, not impervious of mistakes themselves, got themselves second chances and suddenly a flurry of stops in the fourth quarter and overtime the Spurs seemed too stunned to handle.
It would be foolish to think this group doesn’t have another great game left in them to give. As empty as it might feel for some right after the game 6 loss, 48 hours is a long time, especially for his bunch of experienced players and head coach to dig deep and find both the mental and basketball answers to solve this game 7 equation.
Most importantly? Besides Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili simply playing better, because this series will be determined by how good they play, it’s going to be a lot about Gregg Popovich, who need to acknowledge his own mistakes, and makes sure he doesn’t do them again, and have the loss of this title be attached to his name and his own decision.