The San Antonio Spurs are on the verge of possibly the biggest upset in NBA Finals history. No team with the success of this Miami Heat squad has ever fallen in the championship round, and all the Spurs need is one more victory.
San Antonio’s first of two shots in Miami is Tuesday night at in Game 6. If the series goes the full seven games, the winner-take-Larry O’Brien is Thursday night. The Spurs are up 3-2 thanks to Sunday’s 114-104 spanking in San Antonio.
Sure, there have been upsets in The Finals before. Just go back two years when the Dallas Mavericks morphed into America’s team in toppling the Heat in Year 1 of the Super Friends Era. As stunning as Dallas’ title run was, San Antonio’s carries more weight.
This is the third year of the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh mashup. Miami is the defending champion, supposedly on its way to five, six, seven titles. The Heat went 66-16 during the regular season, easily the best record in the league. And, oh yeah, they won 27 games in a row.
Never has a team that’s won at least 66 games and reached The Finals lost. Twice a team with 64 regular-seasons wins fell in The Finals – the 1995-96 Seattle SuperSonics (remember them?) and the ’96-97 Utah Jazz. But both those teams get a pass, as they lost to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, who happened to win 72 and 69 games, respectively.
So, should the Heat fail to put together a two-game winning streak starting Tuesday, they’ll make history. Not the kind of history they wanted to make.
“That’s the position we’re in,” James said. “The most important game is Game 6. We can’t worry about a Game 7. We have to worry about Game 6 and going back home, being confident about our game, being confident about getting a win, which we are. So it is what it is. We have a Game 6 on our home floor.”
On the other side of the coin, if the Spurs close it out, will there be a more extraordinary championship in their collection? Considering they’re supposed to be too old and the Heat too good, this would be the crowning achievement reaching back into the last century.
San Antonio isn’t the kind of team that’s worried about historic significance or legacy, especially in the moment. The Spurs need to win a game in Miami. That’s where their heads are at.
“We understand Game 6 is huge,” Tim Duncan said. “Obviously you want to finish in the first opportunity you get. We understand that Miami is going to come out with a lot of energy and they’re going to play better at home. They’re going to shoot the ball better. Their crowd is going to be behind them.
“I think for us as a team you need to finish as soon as you can. We did that against the Lakers and Golden State and Memphis, so hopefully we can do the same thing.”
The Spurs won the first and last of their four titles on the road – 1999 in New York and 2007 at Cleveland. They’ve put themselves on the brink of a fifth with an effort stamped in TEAM. Led by Manu Ginobili’s resurrection and Danny Green’s air raid, San Antonio ripped away the momentum and reminded the Heat of previous demons.
The Mavericks went back to Miami in 2011 leading three games to two and promptly won Game 6 to claim Dallas’ first championship. LeBron and Co. faded then despite only needing to protect home court.
“We challenge ourselves to see if we’re a better team than we was,” Wade said. “Same position no matter how we got to it. We’re in the same position going back home with Game 6 on our home floor. So we’re going to see if we’re a better ballclub and if we’re better prepared for this moment.”
The past isn’t the Spurs’ concern. They’re in position to do what no team has done before, but it’s still about a game. One more game to win.
“You just go play Game 6. There’s no magic to it. It’s basketball,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “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.”