On the afternoon after Game 6 of the NBA Finals, after an emotionally and physically draining 53-minute game, players from both the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs addressed the specter haunting Game 7: fatigue.
“I feel better today than I did last night already,” says James, who played nearly 50 minutes and appeared stiff an hour after the game. “Nobody’s body is feeling great at this point from both teams. But for me it’s all about—it’s more mind over matter, man. I’m hurting. But it doesn’t matter. It’s the last game of the season, so it’s whatever.”
Tim Duncan, San Antonio’s 37-year-old mainstay, had a visible hitch in his gait after playing 44 minutes and scoring 30 points in Game 6. Still, he dismissed the factor of fatigue without so much as a thought.
“We’re not tired in any way,” says Duncan. “There’s no being tired at this point. We’ve got one more game to win, and that’s all that matters.”
When asked the question again, albeit in a different form, Duncan simply answered, “no.”
Dwyane Wade came into the Finals with a stiff knee, and his play has yo-yoed due to the unpredictability of his level of mobility on a game-to-game basis. As if that wasn’t enough, early in Game 6, Wade bumped knees with Manu Ginobili and appeared hobbled thereafter. He woke up Wednesday morning, as he readily admitted, with swelling and stiffness in his knee. Still…
“There’s one game left,” says Wade. “Whatever you have inside of you, you muster it up, you give it. So I’ll be fine.”
Though it’s hard to say who is the more banged up of the two teams, the Spurs certainly are the squad that relies more heavily on older players. Their coach, Gregg Popovich, though, will not let that be used as an excuse heading into Game 7.
“As long as we didn’t play the game at midnight last night or eight this morning, we ought to have time to recover and be fine,” says Popovich.
Kawhi Leonard, who at 21 is the youngest member of the Spurs, did not deny being tired, did not deny feeling fatigued, feeling drained from blowing a 13-point lead in Game 6. He did, however, make clear that he would be ready for the final game of his second NBA season.
“Our hearts are still in the game, [so] it doesn’t really matter how our physical feels,” says Leonard, who played nearly 46 minutes Tuesday night. “As long as your heart is in the game and you feel like you can win, that’s all you need.”
After all, as Heat center Chris Bosh sort of noted, this series could have been over. Who, in that case, is going to complain about having to play one more game, with the NBA title hanging on the line?
“I think it’s kind of like you have a second chance on life,” Bosh, who played 38 minutes Tuesday, says of coming back to win Game 6 in overtime. “You’re not going to waste it. We were revived. We were dead, and we brought ourselves back to life.”