By John Schmeelk
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I had to be awake in less than six hours, but I had to write this story on Tuesday night immediately following Game 6. If I had waited until the morning, I would’ve lost the adrenaline that was still pumping from one of the best basketball games I have ever seen in my life.
There are moments every once in a while that remind you why you sit in front of a television and watch all those games, and Tuesday night was one of them. I was on the tip of my seat for more than three hours, watching the best players in the world play great team basketball. Nothing done in the NCAA Tournament can come close to matching what we saw on Tuesday night. That was downright special.
The game had everything. Two superstars showed why they are first-ballot Hall of Famers: Tim Duncan and LeBron James. Duncan got the Spurs their lead and James brought his team back. There was redemption: After a first half of getting torched by Duncan, Chris Bosh did all the little things to help the team win late. Ray Allen made every dollar that the Heat spent on him this offseason worth it. There were coaching decisions to dissect on both sides. There were even some questionable officiating calls that people are crying about and claiming conspiracy, though I thought they were the right ones.
I’m honestly not even sure where to start, but here we go:
— Gregg Popovich is one of the best coaches in the NBA, but he made some serious mistakes in the game on Tuesday night. The one thing I didn’t have a problem with was Popovich choosing not to foul when the Spurs were up by three, especially considering that the Spurs had already missed two big free throws (Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard) earlier in the quarter. I did have an issue with Duncan being put on the bench on those final possessions. Perhaps if he was out there, Miami wouldn’t have come down with those huge offensive rebounds. There’s no reason that Duncan can’t guard Bosh in those situations. Backing up to earlier in the fourth quarter, for some reason Popovich decided that it was a good idea to sit Tony Parker and Duncan on the bench at the same time. That helped spark a Miami run that got them back into the game. Both guys needed rest, but with the way that Ginobili was playing, they could not afford to be out of the game at the same time. This is really where the game started to slip away from San Antonio. It was a really big mistake by Popovich that might have cost him a ring.
— That brings me to Ginobili, who has been the worst San Antonio Spur in this series, spare his Game 5 performance. He has been a turnover or bad shot waiting to happen. For a player to be -21 in a one-possession overtime game is mind-boggling. I do not understand why Popovich stayed with him for so long and put the ball in his hands so much. I understand that James will make it hard on Parker, but there has to be another option on offense that isn’t Ginobili. He had eight turnovers. EIGHT! Why not try Duncan in the post more in the second half? If not for Ginobili’s especially bad play, the Spurs are NBA champions right now.
— The Heat had their own version of Ginobili: Dwyane Wade. He managed to be -15 in a one-possession overtime game. The Heat were on their way to winning this game in regulation until Erik Spoelstra went away from his three-point shooting lineup and reinserted Wade into the game. For some strange reason, Spoelstra actually ran a play for Wade and went away from James, who was absolutely dominating the Spurs for most of the fourth quarter. As great as the game was, a lot of it came down to who would do enough to lose the game, Wade or Ginobili? Spoelstra got seriously bailed out by Allen, who hit a very tough and clutch three with one of the quickest releases I have ever seen. Unbelievable shot.
— James probably silenced many of his critics with his triple-double performance, but he still made a couple of bad plays down the stretch, including a pair of turnovers and some missed wide-open three-point shots. Bosh was the real hero late, blocking a couple of shots and grabbing some big offensive rebounds that extended Miami’s possessions. His pass to Allen for the game-tying three was perfect. Bosh gets criticized a lot, and many times rightfully so, but he made winning plays late in Game 6.
— Many fans wanted a foul called on Ginobili’s late drive and on Danny Green’s late three. I thought both were proper no-calls. Ginobili was hit on the arm, but he traveled before the contact was made. He was also out of control and drove into three defenders. The referees were letting both teams play for most of the game and it was a consistent no-call. As for Bosh’s three-point block, there was some contact down low, but he had so much ball that it was the correct no-call. No conspiracies here, folks.
Heading into Game 7, I wonder how much the Spurs have left in the tank. I also worry about Duncan’s knee that he had rolled on late in the game. There’s little chance that Game 7 lives up to Game 6. Much like “Game Of Thrones,” I fear that the next-to-last episode in this long season is going to be the best one. I still can’t wait until Thursday night, when one last chapter in this fantastic basketball series will be written. This is what sports is all about.
You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants and New York sports.
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