MIAMI — Five things to learn from the Miami Heat’s 103-100 overtime win over the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night:
LEBRON IS GOOD: Maybe it’s time to put the “LeBron chokes” talk to rest. No, Game 6 of the NBA Finals was not his most offensively efficient game. He shot 11 for 26 from the floor and was very slow offensively for three quarters. And look how the game ended up: 32 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. His 3-pointer that got Miami within two points near the end of regulation will be overlooked because of Ray Allen’s heroics, but for James to put up that kind of stat line while playing 50 minutes in a win-or-else game speaks volumes about what a second title would mean to him. He called it the best game he’s ever been a part of afterward, and looked simply exhausted when it was over.
SPURS MISTAKES: More than letting Ray Allen — the best 3-point shooter in league history — get a shot off to tie the game, the final moments were an array of mistakes by the Spurs. They missed three of their eight free throws in the fourth quarter, two of those misses coming in the final 28.2 seconds. Plus, Manu Ginobili — the hero of Game 5 — committed eight turnovers by himself, and called the loss devastating afterward. Tony Parker, a Finals MVP candidate, missed 17 of his 23 shots. And substitution patterns might have played a role in the outcome as well. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich took Tim Duncan out of the game with 28.2 ticks remaining, the possession where Allen made the 3-pointer that forced overtime. If Duncan was in the game, maybe he would have had a better chance of outmuscling Chris Bosh for the rebound that saved Miami’s season. (This led to another bizarre moment, that being referees allowing Duncan to return while they were reviewing the Allen 3-pointer.) Make no mistake, the Spurs locker room was an unhappy place.
BIG SHOT MARIO: Mario Chalmers loves big games, and proved that again in Game 6. Miami’s point guard scored 20 points on 7 for 11 shooting, and helped keep the Heat afloat in a first half where the offense wasn’t exactly clicking. Chalmers was also 4 for 5 from 3-point range, part of an 11-for-19 effort from long range by the Heat. The Spurs went just 5 for 18 from beyond the arc. The Spurs were clearly driven on keeping LeBron James from getting going, but too many of Chalmers’ shots were uncontested.
DUNCAN’S FADE: Spurs forward Tim Duncan was unstoppable in the first half, with 25 points. He went just 2 for 8 after halftime, scoring only five more. Yes, he led everyone with 17 rebounds, but the Spurs absolutely needed to go to him more down the stretch. And after playing 44-plus minutes, how much Duncan will physically have left for Game 7 may now be a legitimate question, as well. Duncan benefitted from two things: The Heat not going with Udonis Haslem (who’s had great moments in his career against Duncan) and a concerted effort to take the ball out of Danny Green’s comfort range. Duncan nearly made the Heat pay for those choices, which wound up paying off in large part since Green missed all but one of his seven shots.
COMING UP: The final practices of the season are Wednesday, and then it’s the final game of the year on Thursday night. A championship awaits someone.
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