2013 NBA Finals: 5 Things You Can Absolutely Expect From Game 7
Put together, they're two of the most heady words a sports fan can mutter. The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs will go at it one last time Thursday in the NBA Finals, after the Heat stunned the Spurs with late-game 3-pointers from Ray Allen and Lebron James to overcome a 5-point deficit with 20 seconds to play. The nail-biter was just the second game of the series decided by single digits.
With such an erratic Finals comes little predictability. However, there are some things we know that are bound to happen in the final game.
1. Manu Ginobili Will Have a Short Leash
Manu Ginobili is an integral part of the Spurs' dominance over the past decade. A two-time All-Star and a reliable shooter, Ginobili came off a 24-point game five, only to bungle to nine points and eight turnovers Tuesday. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich gave Ginobili a rare start in game six, and even if he doesn't start Thursday's game on the bench, you can bet that he'll have little room for error.
Ginobili was explicitly upset about San Antonio's loss, a rare sight in a sport where emotions are usually heavily guarded. A player of Ginobili's talent could easily bounce back in game seven, but you have to be a little skeptical for now. Ginobili's shooting under 40% for these playoffs and has put up a paltry .250 shooting percentage over his last 10 games.
2. The refs will be on close watch
It didn't help that litigious referee and infamous Tim Duncan nemesis Joey Crawford was on duty for game six. Lebron James' prosperity in Crawford-officiated games continued while Spurs fans were less than happy with some of the calls in the final minutes.
Game 7's refs will be watched with a keen eye. The officiating has been up and down all series, and in such a decisive game, fans and analysts alike have the propensity to blame outcomes on the whistle.
3. Lebron James will play a complete game
Lebron James has somehow elevated his play to even more ungodly levels this postseason. James' scoring outputs have teetered at times, but his rebounding and assists are higher than ever. James' eye-popping triple-double Tuesday night included a game-high 32 points, 10 boards and 11 dimes, not to mention three steals and a block for good measure.
Critics of James claim that he needs to take over these games in more aggressive fashion, but when Miami wins, Lebron's complete play looks all the better. James is doing all he can to get his sluggish supporting cast involved and in a rhythm, and by playing point-forward for stretches of the game, he's able to dictate the flow of the Heat's offense. You can bet that Lebron will don a similar style of play Thursday.
4. Miami's "Big Three" will be criticized
If they lose, you won't hear the end of it. If they win, they'll be spurred for not winning sooner. Regardless of Thursday's outcome, Miami's "Big Three," comprising of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, will be the targets for copious criticism.
This trio of superstars have garnered criticism since its inception in 2010. Even if the Heat prevail, many will point the finger at Wade and Bosh, who have slumped to 15.5 and 12.7 points per game in the playoffs, respectively.
Bosh wants the three to remain teammates. Fans across the nation would love to see them implode.
5. We're going to have a champion
Cop out? Perhaps. Still, the NBA will finally crown a champ Thursday night, and after a wild seven-game Finals and a season that's felt like an eternity, it's certainly worth watching.
San Antonio's expanded its offense to the likes of Borris Diaw and Kawhi Leonard, beating Miami's swarm defense with good ball movement and stellar post play from Tim Duncan. Miami's lived and died by James, Wade and three balls from the supporting cast. After Lebron guarded Tony Parker so effectively Tuesday night, we're ready for another classic clash Thursday.