After the Spurs repelled every late Heat run, after they made sure they kept within striking distance before halftime, after they weathered nine-point deficits and a brain-lock foul of Ray Allen behind the three-point line in the final 90 seconds, there is one team playing with house money in these Finals and it’s not Miami.
Before Parker went glass for one of the more memorable Finals shots in recent memory, Duncan provided a real window into the dueling expectations of two franchises a day before Game 1.
Asked if he ever observed the scrutiny LeBron goes through — by the way, he was hammered for not being more aggressive Thursday night in a game he registered, oh, a triple double — Duncan cut the questioner off. “I’m definitely glad I don’t have that kind of pressure on me. Absolutely.”
The Heat have to win, or else LeBron falls to 1-3 in the Finals and Pat Riley’s great free-agent coup of 2010 doesn’t accomplish its singular goal — becoming champion multiple times.
The Spurs already have established their legacy, and can take great pride in returning to the Finals after a six-year absence with the same three primary stars as 2007.
And LeBron looked like he had the world on his shoulders in the final minutes of Game 1. He grasped at the ball on the final possession with Miami trailing by 2, trying to take it away from a stumbling, bumbling Parker — before the daggar lean-in jumper banked in.
“Tony did everything wrong and everything right in the same possession,” LeBron lamented.
As the pressure mounted and the shot clock wound down, Parker somehow collected himself. And he got it to go in.
“It felt forever too,” he said. “It was a crazy play. I thought I lost the ball 3 or 4 times. I just wanted to get a shot up. And it went in.”
The final play — really, the final minutes — spotlighted the Spurs main advantage in this series: poise. They’ve got it, and that’s why they wrestled Game 1 away from the defending champions before a shaken white-clad crowd at the AmericanAirlines Arena.
Even in his most harried moments, the Spurs guard incredibly kept his composure, finding a nook and a cranny to get free while chaos descended on him.
Bucket. Ballgame, 92-88.
One game to zero, Homegrown Big Three over Miami’s Imported Trio.
Every time the Heat threatened to go up 10 or more, the Spurs kept the game within striking distance. Every time LeBron threatened to take over the proceedings, San Antonio made a memorable defensive stop or Parker swished a jump shot through the rim that just crushed Miami’s momentum.