As if giving away Game 6 of the NBA Finals would not be enough to haunt the San Antonio Spurs all summer, they’ll also replay the last two minutes of Game 7 over and over.
LeBron James will be remembered for making the only basket of those final two minutes Thursday, hitting a 19-footer after the Spurs had cut the lead to two points in Miami’s eventual 95-88 victory. But the fact is that James’ shot became a lot easier after San Antonio missed opportunities to tie or take the lead.
Tim Duncan will blame himself for missing a tiny hook shot and a tip, and his rare display of emotion will remain a memorable scene from this series. But the shot that will stick with me came on the Spurs’ previous possession.
Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard had just made a 3-pointer from the right wing that pulled San Antonio within 90-88. Tony Parker’s steal gave the Spurs a transition opportunity, and Leonard fired another 3 from the left wing with 1:25 remaining. He missed, and San Antonio never scored again.
That’s basketball. If that shot had gone in, the Spurs may well have won the championship. Leonard, who engaged in some great games against BYU as a San Diego State star in the Jimmer Fredette era, could have become the hero. If nothing else, it would have been intriguing to see how the Heat responded, having fallen behind.
I’m just glad the Spurs made the Heat work as hard as they did to win this championship. Miami needed cooperation from San Antonio’s collapse to win Game 6, but the Heat ultimately are deserving winners. Ever since James went to Miami in search of multiple titles, all I’ve wanted from the rest of the league is the kind of challenge that would make him earn everything he gets.
The Spurs delivered that level of performance, even though they obviously faltered at the end of the last two games. This was a crazy series, with a couple of blowouts, some classic finishes and a back-and-forth trend that made it difficult for anybody to win two games in a row. The Heat finally managed to do so, and they deserve credit for overcoming a worthy opponent.