NBA Finals Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, June 18th (All times Eastern)
(2-W) San Antonio Spurs (3-2) at (1-E) Miami Heat (2-3), 9 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The San Antonio Spurs are one win away from a fifth NBA championship and will go for it Tuesday night in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat.
The series shifts back to South Beach for Game 6 and the Spurs won Game 1 in Miami. Now, they are on the cusp of the franchise's first title since 2007, but have a daunting, yet simple task ahead.
"You just go play Game 6. There's no magic to it," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "It's basketball. It's not that complicated. Both teams will compete their fannies off."
The Spurs pulled ahead in the series with a 114-104 victory Sunday night in San Antonio. There was a Manu Ginobili sighting in Alamo City as the veteran swingman was inserted into the starting lineup.
He scored 24 points and handed out 10 assists. Prior to Sunday, Ginobili averaged 7.5 ppg during the Finals.
"I'm being honest, I don't care about scoring 24," Ginobili said. "I was angry, disappointed. We are playing in the NBA Finals, we were 2-2, and I felt I still wasn't really helping the team that much. And that was the frustrating part."
Ginobili was brilliant, as was Tony Parker, who had a game-high 26 points. Danny Green continued his incredible shooting with 24 points on a 6-for-10 effort from long range. He now owns the record for most 3-pointers made in an NBA Finals with 25 and is three behind the Heat's Ray Allen for most 3's made in a playoff series.
And Tim Duncan has played well. He netted 17 points on Sunday to go along with 12 rebounds. He is in position for a fifth title and can join John Salley as the only player to win a title in three different decades.
But there will be some tough sledding for San Antonio to best the Heat in Miami, despite the victory in Game 1.
Being on the road is a disadvantage, but what should scare the Spurs the most is Miami's record after losses in the postseason. The Heat are 6-0 in games following a loss in the playoffs and the average margin of victory has been 20.6 points.
The Heat, who haven't lost consecutive games since January, haven't won two straight since Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers.
"If I knew the answer we would have won two games in a row," said LeBron James.
Miami's key contributors were fine in Game 5.
James had 25 points, eight assists and six rebounds, but disappeared in the second half. He only managed nine points over the final 24 minutes and, at times, looked like he was deferring to others on the offensive side.
"I have to come up big, for sure in Game 6. But I believe we all have to play at a high level in order to keep the series going," said James.
Dwyane Wade scored 25 points and recorded 10 assists on Sunday. Chris Bosh had 16 and Ray Allen chipped in 21 off the bench on 4-for-4 shooting from beyond the arc.
But everyone else has been dreadful.
Head coach Erik Spoelstra's first order of business is probably going to be who replaces Mike Miller in the starting lineup. He was fantastic early in the series, but in the last two games, both starts for Miller, he was held scoreless.
Could Udonis Haslem return to the starting lineup? Or maybe Shane Battier, who is an infinitely better defender than Miller, but has struggled mightily with his shot? What about "The Birdman" Chris Andersen, who hasn't played at all in the last two games?
"We'll see," said Spoelstra.
Miller isn't the only problem. Miami has gotten nothing from the point guard position. Starter Mario Chalmers is averaging 8.0 ppg and his backup, Norris Cole, is averaging 3.0 ppg and hasn't scored since Game 3.
"They have had their moments where they've played well," said Spoelstra. "Game 6 could be a different story. Different guys will step up at different times."
They need different guys, but if the Big Three play like they did in Game 4, where James, Wade and Bosh combined for 85 points, 25 rebounds, nine assists, 10 steals, five blocked shots and just two turnovers, Game 7 looms on the horizon.
Plus, the Heat have past history to fall back on. Two years ago, Miami was down 3-2 to the Dallas Mavericks, but back at home for Game 6. Dallas won by 10 and captured its first championship.
"We're in the same position going back home with Game 6 on our home floor. So we're going to see if we're a better ballclub and if we're better prepared for this moment," Wade said Sunday. "Everything happens for a reason. And this is not a bad reason at all to go home for Game 6 on your home floor."
The Heat finished with the league's best record, thus, getting home-court advantage for just this scenario. And, it could come in handy for a potential Game 7. The last five Game 7s in the NBA Finals have all gone to the home team.
Not that the Heat are even thinking that far down the road.
"We can't worry about a Game 7," said James. "We have to worry about Game 6 and going back home, being confident about our game, being confident about getting a win, which we are."
If needed, Game 7 will be Thursday night in Miami.
06/18 10:15:18 ET