NBA Finals Game 7: what makes sense and what will happen

The Post Sports Live crew discusses how many more NBA championships LeBron James has to win to be considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time. (Jayne Orenstein/Post Sports Live)
Mike Wise
Columnist June 20, 2013

I agree with Jason Reid in The Post today: This has the potential to be the greatest Game 7 in the history of the NBA Finals.

I am not just saying that because we live in a possession-to-possession universe now, and LeBron James happens to be the most famous, non-futbol-playing athlete on the planet, and because he is playing against major underdogs Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, who enter tonight’s game pretty much carbon-dated.

Mike Wise is a sports columnist for The Washington Post. View Archive

No, not at all.

And I’m not just saying that because everybody forgets about the Celtics beating the St. Louis Hawks in double overtime for their first title in 1957 — because Bob Ryan once told me that was a donnybrook or a tilt or something.

I’m also not discounting George King’s free throw and ensuing steal in the final seconds to lead the Syracuse Nationals to a 92-91 victory over the Ft. Wayne Zollner Pistons in 1955. (Actually, I am discounting that win. George died in 2006, so he can’t sue.) Look, they didn’t even keep shooting percentages or assists, and it was played at the Onondaga Auditorium. How hoppin’ could that place be? They didn’t even have a guy to assault your senses like the Miami P.A. announcer: “STAND UP AND MAKE SOME NOISE FOR YOUR MIAMI . . . HEAT!!!” (If I only had taser training.)

I am also discounting the Celtics’ win over the Lakers at the Forum in 1969. Don Nelson threw up a wounded duck, and the thing hit the back of the rim and bounced in. Other than conniving Mark Cuban out of millions to coach flawed teams, it’s the luckiest thing Nellie ever did.

Whatever.

Heat-Spurs Game 7 has the potential to be the absolute best because: San Antonio actually could do the unthinkable and pull this thing off.

Of the 17 Game 7s in NBA Finals history, just three teams have managed to win on the road: Boston in ’69 and ’74, and Wes and Big E’s Washington Bullets in ’78, the last team to do it.

Hear are five reasons why the Spurs could be the fourth:

1. They are the most mentally tough team in basketball. A devastating loss in Game 6, in which they held a five-point lead with less than 25 seconds left and all they needed to do was make one more free throw or grab one more rebound in the final 30 seconds, won’t affect them like it would another team that threw away a championship. They stay medium better than any franchise in sports.

2. Their role players, most notably Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter, are younger and have been better and more consistent in this series than the Heat’s role players. You never know when Mario Chalmers or Mike Miller or Chris Andersen might show up or even play.

3. Because this is like Rocky VII for Duncan, Ginobili and Tony Parker. They’re not getting back to the Finals together. With injuries to other key Western Conference stars and the Clippers and the Warriors not all growed up yet, this year was an aberration. If they get past the second round in Duncan’s final two years, it will be even more incredible than this run to the Finals. This is the Spurs’ now-or-never shot. When it comes to winning a championship, Miami has a tomorrow; San Antonio doesn’t.

4. The Heat have mentally won this thing after one of the great playoff games in NBA history in Game 6, and LeBron and friends will psychologically let their guard down tonight. The organization is already putting T-shirts on everybody’s seat tonight that have the Larry O’Brien championship trophy on it. They’ve already Heat-peated in their heads.

5. Spurs’ Big-Game Finals Pedigree. This is still the most incredible stat of the Gregg Popovich-Duncan era: In their five appearances since 1999, the Spurs have never trailed in a Finals series. They’ve never lost Game 1, or been behind two games to one or three to two. The one time they were forced to the limit — against Detroit in 2005 — they found a way in the waning moments to hold on at home. They’re 4-0 on this stage; they don’t know how to lose in the Finals.

Which leads us to our prediction:

Heat 110, Spurs 90.

Come on, you can’t give LeBron James a second chance to escape an elimination game — in which the Heat are now 4-0 the past two seasons. People can knock him for joining two other All-Stars, and helping import a future Hall-of-Famer in Ray Allen, all they want. Bottom line: He got the help he needed to win the other night. He’ll get it again tonight. Yes, “Not one . . . not two” is going to come to fruition. It’s over two minutes after halftime – meaning George King’s big night in ’55 is safe.

For more by Mike Wise, go to washingtonpost.com/wise.

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