"Ahh, I was wondering what would break first, your spirit or your body." Bane, The Dark Knight Rises.
Sorry, The Dark Knight Rises as been on HBO a lot the last couple of days, so that quote has been on my mind. The San Antonio Spurs may be broken. Their spirit may be broken from letting a five point lead (and their fifth championship) slip away with less than 30 seconds to go in regulation. The bodies could be broken from going all out in an overtime game that saw Tim Duncan play 44 of those 53 minutes and get his knee rolled up on.
Still, that was Game 6 and it only tied up the series. It's entirely possible this isn't the back breaker many Spurs fans thought it to be immediately following the loss. It hurt, but in the way a shot to the body hurts. It puts you down for a bit, but unless it's a nice kidney shot like Miguel Cotto used to throw, it's not going to put you down for good.
"The night is darkest just before the dawn. And the dawn is coming." Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight
Yes, another quote. This one from the The Dark Knight. Judging by my social media feeds, Spurs fans are either sad because they think Miami will wrap this up in Game 7 or they're angry because Manu Ginobili and Danny Green both got fouled on their final shots and the referees swallowed their whistles. I won't argue one way or another. It's completely irrelevant now.
Rebounding from a loss like this is going to take leadership, which the Spurs have both on the court and on the bench. It's also going to take a confidence that they can beat this Heat team one more time. They know they can, they know this series should be wrapped up by now. They know Miami hasn't beaten them twice in a row yet. They know Tony Parker played terribly for most of the game. They know they didn't get their three-point shooters enough open looks. They know it took a heroic triple double effort from LeBron James, plus some missed free throws, plus a couple of missed rebounds that led to desperation three-pointers for Miami to win. That game was everything you wanted from LeBron James. He didn't force anything early, found the Miami shooters and let the game come to him. Then he flipped a switch in the fourth quarter and attacked like a mad man. And Miami still barely pulled this game out. That doesn't mean they won't play better, it just means the Spurs didn't play great and they were still right there at the end.
"Suffering builds character." Talia Al-Ghul*
Oh yeah, another Dark Knight Rises quote. This one goes out to Manu Ginobili. San Antonio's favorite Spur was not good in Game 6. The eight turnovers were particularly unsettling, but also an outlier statistically, even for Ginobili's mostly not good play in the postseason. The offensive execution fell flat late, which is also isn't likely to happen again. The guard production was bad, which also isn't consistent with what we've seen this post season. This loss is on Tony Parker, Ginobili and Danny Green's poor play as much as anything else. All three have shown an ability to shake off bad games, shots, etc. How they respond to this loss will influence the outcome of Game 7 in ways we probably can't even measure.
I don't know what's going to happen Thursday night, in part because this is kind of uncharted territory for this Spurs team. Popovich, Duncan, Parker and Ginobili are the only ones left that dropped Game 6 to Detroit in 2005, only to come back and win Game 7, but that was at home. The Heat, energized from this possibly brief reprieve from a summer full of questions, may come out and knock the Spurs out from the opening tip. Dwyane Wade may decide to go off like he did in Game 4. But nothing about this series or this Spurs team says this will happen. And if the Spurs do lose it won't be because they're an emotional wreck. That's not really their style. That's pretty much the anti-Popovich/Duncan way.
Every time the Spurs have faced a challenge they've responded in a positive way. This is a bigger challenge with bigger consequences, but it doesn't mean they won't rise to the occassion. It also doensn't mean they will. Just don't write this season's obituary yet. This series has been too unpredictable for that.
*All these quotes came from villains who eventually died at the end of these movies, so take that for what it's worth too.