The best player in the world, who had scored 11 points in the fourth quarter to carry his team back from a double-digit deficit, and swatted away a Tim Duncan shot to boot, looked meek and confused in the final minute of regulation of Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Even though the San Antonio Spurs were almost begging LeBron James to take open jump shots, he forced the ball inside — and twice turned it over. Some dumb Miami Heat fans started leaving the building. Game over. The sports yappers would have months and months of fodder. LeBron falls short again down the stretch of the NBA Finals, he’s no Michael Jordan, blah blah blah.
But then LeBron nailed a huge three during Miami’s furious comeback from a five-point deficit, with 30 seconds left. He finished the game with triple double: 32 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists.
The best point guard in the world strung together an amazing sequence — three-pointer, steal, tough shot in traffic in the lane — to give the San Antonio Spurs a 91-89 lead with 58 seconds to go. It would be Parker, not James, earning the Jordan comparisons: down the stretch of Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, Jordan — like Parker playing on the road — made a layup, stole the ball, and then made his famous “last shot” against Bryon Russell and the Utah Jazz, giving him and the Chicago Bulls a sixth championship. Sure, Parker’s performance wasn’t as theatrical. Still, it would be remembered.
But the Spurs couldn’t hold on, and Parker — exhausted beyond belief — was on the bench during the final moments of overtime.
The best three-point shooter the game has ever known entered the last 5 seconds of the regulation having hit exactly one shot in Game 6.
But after an offensive rebound, the ball found Ray Allen in the corner. With Parker up close on him, Allen swished a stunning 3-pointer to tie the game at 95-95. Overtime.
The best big man of his generation scored 30 points through the first three quarters of Game 6. With the Spurs up 10 heading into the fourth, Tim Duncan was living up his legend, having another career-defining game at the age of 37, en route to a fifth championship.
But Duncan wouldn’t score another point the rest of the game. And he didn’t clinch that championship.
The softest man in the NBA — if you listen to enough silly punditry — played like a man possessed down the stretch: Chris Bosh’s last-second offensive rebound and kick-out to Ray Allen saved Miami’s season. Two blocked shots in overtime — one on a Tony Parker three-point try, the other on a Danny Green’s last-second desperation corner heave — sealed Miami’s 103-100 win. (Never mind that Bosh was nuts for going after Green so aggressively, and very likely fouling him on a shot he was never going to make. Luckily for everyone’s sanity, the refs didn’t make that call).
The best player on the floor in Game 5 — 24 points, 10 assists, a team-best 19-point advantage when he was on the court — was the worst player on the floor in Game 6: Manu Ginobili had 9 points, 8 turnovers, and the Heat outscored San Antonio by 21 points when he was in the game.
Anything else happen in Game 6?
Oh yeah, the best coach in the NBA, Gregg Popovich, had a pretty terrible game. He decided to take Tim Duncan out on defense down the stretch. But without Duncan on the floor, Miami was able to grab two key offensive rebounds that led to the game-tying basket.
And rather than call timeout with nine seconds left in overtime while trailing 101-100, Popovich let a nightmarish Ginobili dribble the ball up the floor and into a congested foul lane, where Allen stripped him and caused a turnover. The announcers said a foul should have been called. I say no way – Allen’s steal looked pretty clean, and a foul would have just bailed out a poor decision.
You may have fallen asleep before Game 6 ended. You might not care much for basketball – or sports in general. But it’s worth knowing the surprises of Game 6, since everyone will be talking about it today. And for a long time. Game 7 is Thursday night. Good luck, Miami and San Antonio, trying to top this one.