When the Great Ones F**k Up
14 turnovers. 37% from the floor. Errant threes, missed layups, wild passes, butterfingers, and general poor decision-making haunted the Spurs last night. Still, they kept it so close, even taking the lead at certain points. The situation was the same in Game Six, two nights prior, when they had a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter. That’s where the frustration comes in. For players, for coaches, and for fans.
I had no rooting interest in this series, but my hope was to see perfect basketball. Two teams playing at their finest, two heavyweights smart enough to wait for an opening to jab, and a chance to counter off a block. I expected a level of sloppiness from certain Heat players, of course. Wario Chalmers was on the warpath, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade were alternating games in which the other would actually show up (Bosh took Game 7 off after Wade took off Game 6), and aside from a breathtaking clutch-as-f**k three from Ray Allen, the cadre of outside shooters at the Heat’s disposal had ben relatively quiet.
For many seasons now, though, nobody has bothered to expect that from the Spurs. They’re the machine, after all. So smooth and intelligent. The blueprint for how a basketball team should play, by focusing on the very word team. They’re not unbeatable, true, but they don’t beat themselves. At least, we hadn’t seen them beat themselves, until last night.
First of all, a ton of credit does go to the Heat’s defense. They played like they had been coached to: smothering, quick, and frightening. But there’s not a chance in hell they expected Manu Ginobili or Tony Parker to fumble the ball as frequently as they did. I had never seen Parker literally lose the ball without anybody touching him before. He just lost control while dribbling upcourt. What of the horrible passes of Manu Ginobili? Just passing right to Heat defenders, or even out of bounds. Nobody could control the ball once they got their hands on it, and it cost them dearly. Like the apex predator of the Heat himself, LeBron James, once Miami saw an opening, even for a split second, they took it, and they killed.
The amount of times I scremed MANU WHAT ARE YOU DOING? is beyond count. Even the last play the Spurs ran, the second-to-last chance they had, Manu got the ball, ran towards the basket at full speed, and… nothing. He got clogged up behind the basket. Where was he going? What was the plan? He tossed it away without even looking, a disgusting, inexplicable turnover. Manu also took the last shot for the Spurs, a hideous contested three. The past two games have been so horrible for Manu, the rumors that he’ll retire are running rampant.
Tony Parker’s “hero ball” was embarrassing to watch going up against LeBron James. The amount of blown drives and missed shots were baffling with Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard being on fire, and so many long-ball shooters waiting on the perimeter, wide open. What’s the point of having a great mind and a great distributor when they lose control like he did?
Danny Green was mentally destroyed last night, continuing a bad trend that started in Game 6. After five games of earning his spot and proving so valuable that he was in consideration for Finals MVP, Green went 2-19 the past two games. Despite his good defense, Dwyane Wade kept taking shots right in his face… and making them. That could not have helped his mental state, but for him, Tiago Splitter, the amazing Kawhi Leonard, and Gary Neal, they have games ahead of them. They can get rid of these haunting memories in the future.
For Tim Duncan, that might not be the case.
Duncan was amazing all series, averaging a 19 and 12, and shooting 49%. If you take out the ugly blowout loss to Miami, he averaged 20 ppg on 52% shooting. Statistically, that’s pretty amazing for someone his age, but more importantly, he passed the eye test with flying colors. Every time he got the ball in the paint, it seemed like he put up another silky turn-around one-hander off the glass and right through the hoop. Duncan was a bonafide force in this series, and towards the end of Game 7, when the Spurs were down by just a few points, Duncan started playing angry, swatting away low-fives offered to him by teammates, and sinking line-drive free throws with impatience. In the end, though, with the Spurs down two, 49 seconds to play, he had the ball four feet from the rim. He smoothly lays it up, despite the defense.
Miss. Rebounds it. Puts it up again, this time virtually at the rim.
Miss. Bosh rebounds it. Timeout Miami. Duncan can’t believe it. Twitter can’t believe it. Even the Miami fans can’t believe it.
On the ensuing play, LeBron makes an open jumper from 19 feet after Parker moves to defend Battier, forcing a too-distant Kawhi Leonard to quickly move into position, only to be able to stretch his arm and hope this somehow phases the greatest player of this generation, a man who has sought from day one to silence those who criticize his “clutchness”. Kawhi could’ve been in LeBron’s shorts, punched him right in the balls, speared him like Goldberg onto Raven, and LeBron still would’ve made that shot.
The Spurs f**ked up. LeBron did not.