MIAMI — The Spurs were on the brink of winning a championship. With 28 seconds remaining in the fourth, they held a five-point lead, were on a 10-2 run over the last four minutes, and fans were heading for the exits while arena staffers lined the court to rope off the crowd in preparation for the trophy presentation.
But it wasn’t over yet.
The Heat had it back to a single-possession game with 19 seconds left, and Ray Allen made an incredibly difficult shot to send it into overtime, where Miami was able to prevent the Spurs’ championship celebration with a thrilling 103-100 victory that forces a Game 7 on Thursday.
Erik Spoelstra said he wasn’t aware of the machine that was in process, in terms of the building readying to crown the Spurs as champions.
“Come on,” Spoelstra said with a smile. “At that time I don’t think anybody noticed. That’s probably the best way to live in life is in the moment, and that will guarantee you’re in the moment.”
The Heat’s head coach may not have noticed, but key players on his team told a different story.
Chris Bosh said it “pissed him off” seeing all that happening before the game was officially decided, and LeBron James echoed that sentiment.
“Yeah, I noticed it,” James said. “It kind of did the same to all of us. There’s a few guys in the locker room that talked about it. We seen the championship board already out there, the yellow tape. And you know, that’s why you play the game, to the final buzzer.”
Before we got to that point, and due to the way that it finished, this game was an all-time classic.
Miami got out to a lead of as many as seven points in the second quarter, thanks to some early Spurs turnovers and some hot three-point shooting. James was in facilitator mode for the Heat, and consistently found his open shooters. But his offense was lacking, and when the Spurs made their push from the end of the first half on through to the start of the fourth, it was a problem as the Heat struggled with an offense that was tentative overall.
Through three quarters, James had 14 points on just 3-of-12 shooting, the Spurs held a 10-point lead, and Miami appeared to be on the ropes.
LeBron wasn’t going to go out like that, however, and his aggression in the final period was the reason the Heat were able to bring themselves back. He had 16 points in the fourth on 7-of-11 shooting, and attacked, attacked, attacked, finally forcing a Spurs team that was so effective defensively into impossible situations.
James finished with a triple-double line of 32 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, while playing 50 of the game’s 53 minutes.
Before Allen’s clutch game-tying shot, there were two big ones from Tony Parker — a fadeaway three-pointer, followed by a 12-foot jumper — that turned a three-point Spurs deficit into a two-point San Antonio lead with under a minute to play. The Spurs played stifling defense on the next couple of possessions to force two James turnovers, and free throws pushed the lead to five that began to put the plans in motion for the Spurs and the title celebration that was anticipated.
The Heat rallied, and the big-time three from Allen — which came after James missed a three to tie, and Chris Bosh secured the offensive rebound — got them five more minutes to stave off elimination. He took us through that crazy sequence near the end of regulation.
“Well, LeBron took the shot, and I knew we had time, I had to go,” Allen said. “I went into the paint to try to get the ball and make something happen. At that point there’s no guarantee who is going to get the ball or what may happen, and when I seen CB get the ball, I just backpedaled right to the three‑point line, and I was hoping I was where I needed to be — but I wasn’t quite sure. But just from years of shooting, I got to my spot.”
The overtime session featured two teams that were completely gassed from the intensity of the first 48 minutes. The Spurs trailed by three with just over a second left, and while Danny Green received the ball and rose up to try to tie it, Chris Bosh was there to block his shot as time expired.
We got this far without even mentioning Tim Duncan, who was on track to post one of the greatest games of his career, and one of the best in Finals history. He dominated early with 25 first half points on 11-of-13 shooting, and finished with 30 to go along with 17 rebounds. Had the Spurs held off the late Heat comeback, Duncan’s performance might have netted him the Finals MVP.
But talking about the Spurs and their title prematurely was not a good idea on this night, and the early arena prep may just have given the Heat the little extra push they needed to turn things around.
“It was a helluva game,” Gregg Popovich said afterward. “It was a helluva game. It was an overtime game. It’s a game of mistakes, and they ended up on the winning side.”
LeBron took it a step further, after just competing in one of the greatest games we’ve seen in recent Finals history.
“It was by far the best game I’ve ever been a part of,” James said. “The ups and downs, the roller coaster, the emotions, good and bad throughout the whole game. To be a part of something like this is something you would never be able to recreate once you’re done playing the game. And I’m blessed to be a part of something like this.”