The results of the first six games of the 2013 NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat are ultimately inconsequential at this point. Those first six games can be used to build narratives and trends, but the reality is that Thursday night’s Game 7 is the only game that matters now. Win and you hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy; lose and you have nothing to show for it.
Game 7 will come in the wake of one of the best basketball games in recent memory. It seemed like the Spurs had Game 6 and the title in hand as they took a 10-point lead into the final period and had a five-point lead with 28 seconds left. After a redemptive three from LeBron James, a glaring missed free throw from Kawhi Leonard, and a surreal three from Ray Allen, the game headed to overtime where Miami prevailed.
One of the most notable things that was overlooked because of the plethora of highlights is the fact that Gregg Popovich and the Spurs were essentially going for broke in Game 6. Popovich, who usually is incredibly conscious about his aging stars’ minutes, played Tim Duncan 44 minutes, Tony Parker 43 minutes and Manu Ginobili 35 minutes. Considering that none of those players averaged more than 35 minutes per game in the first three games, that’s a lot of work they put in on Tuesday night.
By the time overtime rolled around, the Spurs looked absolutely spent. That’s not to say the Heat weren’t tired, but they noticeably played with more energy than San Antonio. The Spurs’ fatigue in the extra period largely contributed to their three turnovers and 2-9 shooting over those five minutes with the game on the line.
The Spurs’ fatigue after such a taxing series and Game 6 begs the question if they will be able to perform at the level that they need to in Game 7. These guys are professional athletes, but Duncan and Ginobili are both on the wrong side of 35 years old and Parker is over 30 years old while dealing with his leg injury. None of that seemingly bodes well for San Antonio.
There’s no way of telling with any certainty what kind of energy the Spurs will be able to draw from their stars, but it definitely has to be a concern for them in this final game. If they can’t find the energy to match LeBron and the Heat, they’ll fall just short of another title.