There’s an amazing statistic that’s been floating out there for a little while. It’s truly indicative of the San Antonio Spurs’ dominance in the Tim Duncan era. You’ve heard it before, but it’s still breathtaking every time you hear it again.
The Spurs have never trailed in the NBA Finals.
That’s insanity. But it could also be history if the Spurs don’t win tonight.
That’s right. No matter what ridiculous debates you might have seen today, tonight is the most must-win game of the season for the Spurs. If they lose this, they can forget it.
No ring for Duncan’s thumb. No dancing Pop at the parade. None of it happens if the Spurs lose tonight.
20 of the 27 teams that won a Game 5 have gone on to win the NBA Finals since the switch to the 2-3-2 format. But if the series goes to 7, the odds are essentially 50-50.
But beyond that, these are the Miami Heat. And while Kawhi Leonard has led an excellent defensive charge against LeBron James, he’s still LeBron. If they find a way to put everything together in a Game 7, it’ll all unravel quickly.
I saw my Boston Celtics lose an NBA Finals after dropping a Game 6 on the road (to the Lakers…. ugh) in 2010. I saw my Boston Celtics take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals (albeit not a 2-3-2, but still) last season only to have LeBron go into full takeover mode with a 45 point, 15 rebound, 5 assist monster Game 6.
The Spurs are good. Really good. One game away from proving they’re the best team in the NBA. But the Miami Heat are explosive, and they have the best player in the game just itching for a big game. Life is not something the Heat need. Hope is not something the Spurs should provide.
“You just go play Game 6. There's no magic to it. It's basketball,” deadpanned Gregg Popovich after Game 5. “It's not that complicated. Both teams will compete their fannies off. Players will play well or poorly. Coaches will try to help them as much as possible, and the best team will end up winning.”
And this is where I have hope that the Spurs can actually do what’s needed. Because teams that fail in this situation are the teams that get tense. The tight shoulders and hurried shots that lead to misses and break are born from the pressure of NEEDING to end this series immediately. The Spurs, however, have demonstrated a consistent matter-of-factness that is necessary to make this kill.
Snipers aren’t the guys who look like they’ve just had a pot of coffee. They’re the guys with heart rates that barely seem to climb above 60. They’re the guys with the built-in coolness of a Kawhi Leonard, who is more robot designed and programmed by Pop in some secret bunker than he is human being with emotions that risk swing wildly under the pressure of the Finals spotlight.
The Heat can explode for a lot of points in not a lot of time. The Spurs, though, are the bomb squad. They are capable of staring at the ticking clock and barely twitching before figuring out which wires to cut.
But let’s be clear, that bomb is about to go off. The Spurs have 48 minutes of NBA play to diffuse it. If they don’t, Game 7 is going to be an explosion that will wipe out their season.