And so, it comes down to this...
Even though four out of the six games thus far have been double-digit victories, my expectations for these NBA Finals were fully met and conceptually accurate. What intrigued my senses most, leading to the estimation that we would see a deciding seventh game in these Finals, was the clear notion that the Miami Heat had not yet seen a team that could score with them. Milwaukee, Chicago, and Indiana were clearly deficient in that regard, making them all inevitable means towards another Eastern Conference title for the Heat.
The San Antonio Spurs have presented a more potent challenge for the defending champions, as expected. The best passing team in basketball has put doubters and low-IQ basketball fans on notice with their consummately savvy play, defensive discipline, and veteran leadership. With the exception of Game 2 (84) the Spurs have scored 90 points or more in every game, including at least 100 points in four out of six games. Their offense has a special cohesive quality, in that you hardly ever see just one guy carrying the load. We've seen Tony Parker make big plays/shots starting with the go-ahead shot from the Spurs' Game 1 victory; we've seen Danny Green emerge into the spotlight, setting a new NBA Finals record for made three pointers (26); we've seen Kawhi Leonard accept his daunting assignment of LeBron James, while finding ways to contribute offensively through rebounding and wise shot selection, and that's without mentioning the play of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Gary Neal (both sporadically), and Boris Diaw, who has held LeBron James to 3-18 shooting while defending him in games 5 and 6.
The Miami Heat have seen their struggles in their third consecutive NBA Finals appearance. They have been held under 90 points twice in this series, including the Game 3 blow out loss when they could only accumulate 77 points. Fluctuation has been the key issue for Miami, which is a courteous way of saying inconsistent. Their inability to win consecutive games needs instant fixing if they are to win their second straight title tonight. Still, their MVP LeBron James has delivered each time his team's back was against the wall. After all, he is averaging 33.8 ppg in his Game 7 career, the highest of any player in NBA history. Playing on your home court and having the best player on the floor = advantage Miami for Game 7. Here are some interesting additional stats:
- The Miami Heat could become just the third team in history to win an NBA title without leading the series at all until Game 7 (other two: '69 Celtics & '78 Bullets).
- The Miami Heat could become the third team in history to win Game 7's in the Conference Finals and NBA Finals in the same season (other two: '62 Celtics & '88 Lakers).
- The San Antonio Spurs have not lost consecutive games with Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili in the line up since December 12-13, 2012.
- The defending champion has never lost at home in Game 7 of the Finals.
- Tim Duncan could become the seventh player in NBA history to with 5 NBA titles and an MVP in his career (other six: Russell, Kareem, Jordan, Cousy, Magic, Kobe).
- LeBron James could join Michael Jordan and Bill Russell as the only players to win back-to-back regular season MVP awards and NBA titles.
HERE'S WHAT I'LL BE LOOKING FOR IN TONIGHT'S GAME 7:
- Manu Ginobili/Dwayne Wade: Both players are the hidden catalysts for their respective Big 3's, and both have shown brief glimpses of their former greatness. Which ever one of these players can establish early productivity will likely be on the team that has early rhythm.
- Shot takers and shot makers: As simple as it is, both teams need to make perimeter shots. Chalmers-Allen-Miller-Bosh-Battier for Miami; Ginobili-Neal-Leonard-Green for San Antonio.
- Small ball: Both teams have flirted with their four-guard smaller line ups. Given the nature of Game 7, expect to see Tiago Splitter and Chris Andersen make appearances to keep things physical.
- LeBron James' points, field goal percentage, and +/- numbers are all extremely low with Dwayne Wade on the floor. Their ability to make plays for themselves and others will have enormous impact on the outcome.
- Efficiency: The Spurs pride themselves on getting the best shots possible. They will need to shoot a high percentage and get themselves great looks to sustain their half court attack.
- Body language and patience: For the home team, body language will be evident from an effort standpoint. The away team will need to be patient and aggressive at precisely the right times. Challenges for both teams for the final game of the NBA season.