LOSS COULD HAUNT THIS FRANCHISE FOREVER
THE SPURS COULDN'T HOLD A FIVE-POINT LEAD IN THE FINAL 28.2 SECONDS
In professional sports you usually only get one chance to put the proverbial dagger in an opponent and win a series. The teams, the players they are all just too good. So, when the opportunity presents itself you MUST take advantage of it and seal the deal.
This Game 6 loss by the San Antonio Spurs will haunt that franchise in perputuity if they do not win Game 7. They had so many chances to win the game and the series, yet couldn't deliver the dagger.
First, you must make your free throws. Critical misses late by Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli and Kawai Leonard allowed the Heat to hang around for a bit longer than they should. What is surprising is usually veteran teams and veterans make their charity shots. Not last night and it could prove fatal for San Antonio.
Second, one of the strengths for the Spurs in this series has been their ability to rebound the basketball and their dominance inside. Holding the Heat to one-and-done by clearing defensive rebounds. There were two critical sequences in the final :30 seconds last night where Miami's LeBron James missed three-pointers, yet the Spurs couldn't clear a defensive rebound. By not pulling the boards it resulted in TWO MADE trifectas by both James (:21 secs left) and Ray Allen (5.2 secs left.) If you play great defense but don't pull the defensive, it really doesn't matter how well you played defense. That is why defensive rebounding is coveted in the Association.
Third, this is probably the most inexplicable of all the Spurs meltdowns. It comes from their Hall of Fame coach Greg Popovich. The man who I thought would run circles around Erik Spoelstra in this series. But, last night was a John McNamara (Boston Red Sox 1986) moment for Pop. There were so many late game head scratchers from Pop I really don't know where to start.
He removes Tim Duncan with a five point lead with 28.2 seconds left because he wants better perimeter defense as the Heat ready themselves for three-point try late in regulation. The result was the inability to pull the defensive board because you don't have your best player on the floor, a 7-footer who had dominated the boards all night.
He then re-inserts Duncan, only to pull him from the game again with the Spurs up three (95-92) with :18 secs left. Again, the Heat miss a three but pull the offensive rebound leading to the Ray Allen tying three sending the game into overtime.......Guh !
Popovich also told assembled media that he doesn't foul to prevent a three point shot when leading by three points with under :15 seconds left. "Its something we don't do," he said. Well, you might want to think about doing it next time Pop.
Pop's final foible was having Tony Parker off the floor with no timeouts, down by three in the waning seconds with only a Manu Ginobli as the Spurs true ball-handler and trying to get a final shot off. When you don't have timeouts, and you can't rely on a dead-ball situation. You must have your play-maker on the floor. Instead, the Spurs were relegated to Ginobli who was making horrible decisions all night long, and he was your primary decision maker at the end of OT.
If the Spurs beat the Heat on Thursday Game 6 will be forgotten, but if the Spurs lose Game 7, the meltdown on Tuesday night will haunt this proud franchise forever.