Since the final horn rang on game six of the NBA Finals, the media and fans have harped and over analyzed every nook and cranny of every moment of the dramatic ending that extended this series to game seven.
Much has been made about the moments that led to LeBron James and Ray Allen scoring the three point shots that tied the game for the Heat. There are those who dispute whether or not Manu Ginobili was fouled on his way to the basket with the Spurs trailing by one in overtime. In fact, nearly every refereeing decision in this series has been scrutinized and pulled apart from every angle.
But it’s not the refs, believe it or not even Joey Crawford, that decide these games. At the end of the day, no matter what transpires, the root of winning and losing lies in the players actions and decisions of their coaches.
Was Ginobili fouled? I have a better question, does it really matter? The Spurs could have easily avoided that situation by using a timeout with five seconds left on the clock to get Tony Parker, Tim Duncan or Danny Green a better a look. Instead, they let their wild card player who turned the ball over seven times already in the game try to take the game on his shoulders and win with a drive in the lane.
Relying on foul calls late in the game is risky at any rate. You know the refs first reaction is to let the players play on and give the game a chance to sort itself out. Adding to that, there was no reason for the play to go the way it did as it was early in the shot clock. Ginobili missed, the Heat chased down the rebound and the Spurs fouled leaving over a second still left on the clock. The decision not to call timeout was Gregg Popavich’s big mistake for the night while the decision to come down the court and go straight for the rim was the final major misstep by Ginobili.
Many are discussing Pops lineup choices, like not having Tim Duncan on the floor here or Boris Diaw there, but it didn’t matter. You roll with the personnel you think is best and sometimes coaches get that wrong. In any case, they know their teams and players better than fans and TV pundits do, and what impact a different guy in the lineup here or there would have is questionable. The Spurs did everything right for the most part and had a tremendous opportunity to win, but they beat themselves by turning the ball over 13 times and shooting an uncharacteristic 27% from three point range. That’s what you have to remember, this is really about the players and the plays they do or don’t make.
You have to remember that with Miami down 94-92, Kawhi Leonard got a foul call in his favor late in the fourth that came with two free throws which could have made it a two possession game and rendered Ray Allen’s game tying three pointer much less significant. But Leonard hit just one free throw and because of his miss the Heat tied it and won in overtime.
You have to remember these things as game seven unfolds tonight, because a champion shouldn’t be crowned under the dim of refereeing decisions bemoaned.
The players and coaches will take ownership of the result regardless of what transpires, I can almost guarantee that. Ginobili has come out said he doesn’t know how the team will react to their game six defeat, that he doesn’t know if they can come back from it. Something tells me he speaks for himself more than the team.
The Spurs are a gritty squad with what might be the best chemistry in the NBA and a coach who likely won’t repeat the mistake he made in the waning seconds of overtime on Tuesday night. They have the greatest power forward of all time coming off a 30 point night at their disposal and the ability to shoot the three ball as well as anyone.
As a player, you should live for these moments, the chance to rise above adversity proving a glaring opportunity rather than an albatross around their necks. Game seven is where heroes are made and tonight, as champions are crowned and the NBA season comes to a close, I hope that we are able to see the title holders for their greatness rather than how lucky or how stupid they were.