MIAMI — Gregg Popovich and his San Antonio Spurs were back at the scene of their excruciating Games 6 and 7 defeats in last season’s NBA Finals.
“No, I haven’t thought about it at all,” the coach said sarcastically. “Are you serious? I think about it every day.”
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The final two words were stressed, as in “Every. Day.”
Popovich and the Spurs were at the American Airlines Arena on Saturday night to play the Miami Heat in a preseason game few people really cared about. The more popular topic was what happened nearly four months earlier.
Upon exiting the Spurs locker room for his pregame meeting with the media, Popovich saw a throng of reporters and several television cameras.
“This is preseason, right?” he asked. “Who gives a [expletive]?”
To be honest, Pop, hardly anyone. We’d rather hear about any NBA Finals demons that persist.
“The other night I dreamt about LeBron,” Popovich said. “The next day might be Ray Allen hitting a shot in the corner. It might be us missing a free throw, not getting a rebound.
“All those things go through your head. It’s what we do for a living, so it’s a natural kind of thing.”
LeBron James, who planned to sit out Saturday night’s game to rest, was notified of his presence in Popovich’s dreams.
“Dreams or nightmares?” James said. “I know I had nightmares in ’06 (actually the ’07 NBA Finals) when they beat us up pretty bad when I was in Cleveland.
“I’m right with him. I think about it a lot. One play here, one second there, changed the whole format of the game.”
The most painful memories from June for San Antonio undoubtedly are Ray Allen’s jumper that enabled Miami to grab a miraculous Game 6 win, and a hard-fought Game 7 loss that allowed the Heat to repeat as champs.
Games Popovich thinks about every day.
“Ya think?” Dwyane Wade said. “I’m sure — we all do.
“I was there before. We lost a Finals before. I know exactly what a team that loses goes through. It’s not fun being on the other side.”
Not fun, but apparently something from which to learn.
“The first thing we do with our team when they come back is talk to them about why we think we won or lost our last game of the previous season, and then move on from that,” Popovich said. “We hit them with everything — the good, the bad.”
Nothing was worse for the Spurs than Allen’s 3-pointer from the right corner with 5.2 seconds left that forced overtime in Game 6.
“I’m sure that shot by Ray, that whole play, everything that happened on that, I’m sure every player has analyzed it to see if they could have done something different,” Wade said.
During an annual September retreat with his coaches, Popovich said he and his staff spent seven hours breaking down film of Game 6 and six hours on Game 7.
“We’re coaching ourselves every year on every thing we do,” he said. “What do you want to add? What do you want to subtract? And then we put it away.”