When Game 7 of the NBA Finals starts tonight at 9:10 p.m., the sun will have set on 601 Biscayne Boulevard, FL, home of AmericanAirlines Arena. And when Game 7 comes to a conclusion, the sun will have set on the 2012-13 NBA season, on either the San Antonio Spurs or the Miami Heat, on, maybe, a playing career or two.
The Finals—and the season, and, maybe, a career or two—nearly ended with Game 6, on Tuesday night. The Heat trailed by 13 with 16 minutes left in regulation, and reporters were in the process of booking their tickets to whence they came.
The San Antonio Spurs were going to win the NBA Finals in six games.
Then, led by LeBron James, who scored or assisted on every Heat basket in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, the Heat staged a furious comeback. With three minutes to play, the Heat led, 87-84, and had all the momentum.
The Miami Heat were going to force a Game 7.
Then, by dint of Miami mistakes and the Spurs splendid play, something happened.San Antonio seized the game—again. With 22 seconds showing on the clock, the Spurs led by five points. The Championship seemed, once again, at hand. Fans at AmericanAirlines Arena were streaming for the exits, ready to hit the clubs or the hay.
A yellow rope, designed to keep fans off the court during the Larry O’Brien celebration, was brought out and stretched out around the 94×50 court. The O’Brien Trophy was in the vomitory, ready to be presented to the Spurs. Monitors of the NBA’s Twitter feed and Instagram (both @NBA) were poised to post pictures of the Spurs with captions offering congratulations.
You know what happened next: somehow, someway [read: Ray Allen and Divine Intervention (Jesus joke alert)] the Heat won in overtime, 103-100, to even the series at three games apiece.
After the game, legs heavy and body worn out, LeBron summed up the experience.
“To be a part of something like this, once you’re done playing this game, you would never be able to recreate a feeling like I had, we had, the fans had, you guys had, people at home,” said James. “Never be able to recreate that. I’m just blessed I could be a part of such an unbelievable moment.”
So here we are. Game 7.
No matter what, the yellow rope will come out sometime around midnight. No matter what, the O’Brien Trophy will be presented. No matter what, congratulatory captions will clog @NBA’s timeline.
All that’s left to do for fans, is watch and enjoy. All that’s left to do for players, is capture the moment and make history.
“These are the games,” Coach Spoelstra told his team, “you guys are going to be drooling for 20, 25 years from now.”
Game 7, the greatest of all games, is set to tip at AmericanAirlines Arena at 9:10 p.m. (EST). Join me as I comment on history from my bird’s eye view as it’s in the process of taking place.
8:16 PM: A minute ago, both locker rooms closed and the players started making their final preparations for the final Finals game. Before the door hit me on the way out, though, picked up a few things. Dunno if they’re all worth noting, but I’m going to do so regardless.
-Coach Spo addressed the media first. When asked how it is that LeBron readies himself for the scrutiny he faces day after day, Spo responded: “Practice. That’s the world he lives in… He’s been [facing the media] since he was in seventh grade.
-When asked about this Championship being a repeat and how the Heat have avoided that term, Spo said, in short, “It’s always the most difficult thing you’ll ever do collectively.” Meaning, every year a team faces challenges, they just differ.
-Asked how his guys prepared for this game, how they can stay loose and not let the moment get to them, Spo responded, “We’ll go through our normal routine… Playing here, at home, our guys are very excited about this opportunity. I know they don’t take it for granted.”
-Coach Popovich took to the podium after Coach Spo. Safe to say, it was the most hilarious press conference I have ever been a part of. It was sort of akin to when MMG hosted their press conference in NYC a while back. Pop’s snark was at an all-time high, and he actually seemed to be having fun with it. I recommend reading the transcript in full (and I’ll link to it when it becomes available, but in lieu of that here are a few of the choice quotes:
“There is no eighth game. This is the last game. That’s the best news I’ve heard all day.”
“I have no clue what’s going to happen tonight. All I do is hope.”
“It’s torture. It’s hard to appreciate or enjoy torture.”
“Really, I do have a good time doing it (speaking to the press), in a way.”
“It was just filling the cup up again (getting ready Game 7).”
-On a serious note, when asked about potentially retiring, Pop distanced himself. Said that you can only vacation for so long, that “you can only grow so many tomatoes and read so many books.”
-After both coaches wrapped up, headed to the locker rooms. Not much to note there. I mean, Spurs wing Danny Green had cough drops visible in his locker. Apparently, he’s a little under the weather.
-As for the Heat, there was a little laminated card with a passage from Joshua 1:9 in each of their lockers. The card, and verse, read in part: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
8:38 PM: Almost forgot to mention, the Commish, David Stern, is in the house for what will be the last Finals game that he presides over. That being the case, had to snatch a pic of him on the court pre-game to memorialize the moment.
8:40 PM: A full 30 minutes before tip, the first “LET’S GO HEAT!” chant of the night breaks out. Should be plenty rowdy in here tonight, and outside as well. The city of Miami is ready, though; already saw SWAT team members outside on Biscayne Boulevard.
8:42 PM: The San Antonio Spurs take the court to a loud, but short, chorus of boos. Moments later, the Heat emerge from the tunnel to a loud, sustained, cheer. Meanwhile, Meek Mill is on the PA system. Specifically, it’s the intro to his album Dreams and Nightmares. “You ain’t talking about money, what you talkin’ about?!”
8:50 PM: About that Gregg Popovich press conference I was talking about? Here’s a link to the full transcript, as promised. It’s worth your time, whether during a commercial or whenever.
8:56 PM: Apparently not everyone (read: Magic Johnson) understands the Dwyane Wade conundrum. The problem, as a good friend poignantly texted me, isn’t with necessarily with Wade himself. Whether he’s Flash or human is less important than the effect he has on the team’s spacing. That, MJ, is the real problem his subpar health and play causes. Spacing issues.
9:01 PM: Lights have dimmed in the AAA. About to have the Anthem and announce the lineups. Here. We. Go.
9:09 PM: All of the talking and wondering and thinking and analyzing is over. It’s game time. Thanks for joining me, and enjoy the game!
9:10 PM: It’s louder than I’ve ever heard it in AmericanAirlines Arena, and that’s before the opening tap.
9:12 PM: Has the makings of a sloppy game. Each team with one turnover on their first two possessions (and no baskets). Is fatigue a factor…or is it nerves?
9:13 PM: Tim Duncan, after walking around like a 50-year-old on stilts after Game 6, appears to have a little something in the tank. That, or it’s sheer will. Either way, Timmy is a gamer.
9:15 PM: A couple days ago, Duncan said he hoped Danny Green wouldn’t wake up from this dream series. Well, with two misses and a turnover, it appears he might have. That, or he really is sick.
9:16 PM: Manu Ginobili, coming off of a career-worst game, drains an early three. That quieted the crowd. After a Kawhi Leonard bucket, the Spurs lead 11-4.
9:19 PM: LeBron James is at the free-throw line. That’s something we haven’t said enough this series. He has only taken 21 through the first six games of the Finals. That after averaging 7 FTA per game during the regular season.
9:22 PM: Ray Allen checks into the game, with 6:18 to go in the first. He’s greeted by an ovation fit for, well, a man responsible for forcing a Game 7.
9:25 PM: “Dwyane Wade, from LeBron!” That’s a hella common phrase over the PA system here for the past three years.
9:28 PM: If you would’ve told me back in January that the battle between Tim Duncan and Chris Anderson would determine the NBA Finals, I would’ve though you were on drugs.
9:31 PM: Paging Mario Chalmers, paging Mario Chalmers. You’re wanted in AmericanAirlines Arena.
9:33 PM: Shane Battier with the game-changing three. On the next possession, Birdman adds a tip-in. Game is now tied at 15, under 50 seconds to go in the first quarter, and the crowd is getting loud again.
9:34 PM: Battier with another three! 18-15, Heat.
9:35 PM: Dwyane Wade checks out…and the Heat go on a little run. Just sayin’.
9:36 PM: After one quarter of play, the Heat lead the Spurs, 18-15. One down, three to go.
9:39 PM: As noted by the NBA, rap (or singing) superstar Drake is sitting on the woods.
9:42 PM: Shane Battier, 3-3 on threes, appears to be reprising Mike Miller’s role from Game 5 of last season’s NBA Finals.
9:43 PM: (Miller hit seven threes, as you may recall. And if you don’t, here’s the video.)
9:46 PM: For your viewing pleasure, and so you can relive a rare moment over and over again, the NBA has already posted video of Tim Duncan’s fastbreak dunk.
9:50 PM: Tony Parker’s touch around the rim, no lie, reminds me a little of Allen Iverson’s. It’s really hard for mice to finish in the paint, but those two always made/make it look easy.
9:52 PM: For the record, through the first 18 minutes of the game LeBron has 4 points, 1 assist and zero rebounds.
9:56 PM: That’s not to say LeBron isn’t impacting the game. His defense on Tony Parker, as the great Paul Flannery said, has been slept on all series long. Tonight is no exception.
9:57 PM: As if on cue, LeBron goes coast-to-coast for the and-one. Crowd chants “M.V.P.” and the Heat lead, 30-27.
9:59 PM: Boris Diaw just gobbled up that loose ball like the last donut. On a serious note, Game 7 hustle, baby.
9:59 PM: LeBron has come to life, as he hits a three. He now has 10 of the Heat’s 33 points.
10:01 PM: Gary Neal with the circus three. Spurs really needed that. 33-30, Heat lead with a little over four minutes to play in the second.
10:04 PM: Players diving all over the floor. A (too) rare occurrence in today’s NBA. Shows that everyone understands, leave EVERYTHING out there.
10:06 PM: Udonis Haslem is in the game for the Heat. He did not make an appearance in Game 6. UD, DWade aside, is the Heat so it’s good to see him get some burn in the most meaningful game in the franchise’s history.
10:09 PM: LeBron had a private word or two with one of the refs during that timeout. Interesting to note, the coaching staff urged the whole Heat team to quit complaining so demonstratively. As one coach said, the calls all even out.
10:12 PM: Unreal pass from Manu to Duncan. Game is tied at 40.
10:14 PM: An aside, Chris Anderson’s first half stats thus far look meager (11 minutes, 2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 block) but his impact has been major.
10:15 PM: Wade scores the last bucket of the half on a mid-range J over Leonard and gives him a little stare down. After a slow start, Wade finished the half with 14 points and 6 rebounds. With 24 minutes left to go in the Finals, the Heat lead the Spurs 46-44.
10:19 PM: At some point in the first half, Parker was ready to go toe-to-toe with LeBron. Lucky for him, Duncan was there to pull him away. Peep the GIF.
10:21 PM: Foul trouble (3) turned Chris Bosh into Chris Bench in that half. Heat are gonna need something from him to win.
10:30 PM: Even if Dwyane Wade’s game is fading (he’s still good though; chill!), his star is on the rise. What I mean by that is his oldest son, Zaire, looks to be one heckuva a biddy ball player. (H/T Nate Blue)
10:34 PM: Leonard starts off the second half with a game-tying bucket.
10:35 PM: Leonard comes back again, this time with an and-one. He has 9 points to go with 11 boards. If the Spurs win, asks a smart media member sitting next to me, should Leonard receive some MVP consideration?
10:38 PM: LeBron has already hit three threes. That’s more than he’s hit in any other Finals game.
10:42 PM: Part of what makes Leonard so good is the length of his arms and the size of his hands. Want perspective as how to large his mitts are? This ought to give you that.
10:44 PM: Duncan deposits two. Score is all tied at 54. Seven minutes to go in the third.
10:46 PM: Ray Allen, thus far, is 0-3. I’d say get nervous, but he was 0-4 at one point in Game 6, too, and we all know how that turned out.
10:48 PM: Just as I was about to unload on Danny Green, he hits a big three. He’s now 1-9. Spurs up one, 57-56, regardless.
10:49 PM: LeBron. For. Three. That’s his fourth of the game, ties his 2013 Playoff-high.
10:52 PM: Leonard with another and-one. LeBron answers, though, by earning two free throws.
10:55 PM: Know what I’m saying? (Based on my @mentions, you do not. *shrugs* Get it? *laughs*)
10:56 PM: Meanwhile, on a serious note, the Spurs won’t stay down on the canvas. Every time the Heat seem to pull away, the Spurs answer. Somehow, Spurs lead, 65-64, with two-plus minutes left in the third quarter.
11:02 PM: Gary Neal with the unlikely driving layup. Spurs up three.
11:02 PM: Battier for three! He’s 4-4 on those bad boys.
11:03 PM: With the ticks tocking off the clock at the end of the third quarter, Mario Chalmers pulls up for a 28-foot three…and banks it in! Heat lead by one, 73-72, heading into the fourth quarter.
11:04 PM: Twelve minutes. One point. One trophy. Does it get any better?
11:08 PM: The fourth opens with…another three by Battier. #Battierballing
11:09 PM: Obviously, Duncan and Parker, Wade and LeBron aren’t resting to start the fourth. Unusual but obvious.
11:11 PM: Manu called for the offensive foul after running into Anderson. The Birdman has the best plus/minus (+11) tonight on the entire Heat roster.
11:13 PM: Parker has lost his handle on the rock an inordinate number of times tonight. He’s only listed as having one turnover, but that doesn’t reflect his greasy palms.
11:15 PM: Duncan for two off of a wild Parker miss. The big legend has 19 and 9, and the Spurs trail by two, 77-75.
11:16 PM: To state the obvious, neither team deserves to lose this series.
11:17 PM: Jay-Z’s “Encore” on blast on the PA system in AAA. “Encore, do you want more…”
11:21 PM: LeBron and DWade are sitting down on the scorer’s table; just asked the huddle to come to them. They must be beyond tired. Bron’s played 4,000~ minutes this season. Suffice to say, he can push through seven more minutes.
11:23 PM: Wade with a big mid-range jumper. He doesn’t have the bounce to get to the rim, but he’s doing his thing in the mid. He has 20 points.
11:24 PM: Chris Bosh with the offensive foul. He has still yet to score.
11:25 PM: LeBron dribbles into the two-point jumper over Duncan. The Heat lead by six, 83-77, and James has 31.
11:29 PM: Duncan with the miss; Ginobili with the O foul. Starting to feel like Heat are pulling away, like Spurs decade of dominance is coming to an end. (83-77, Heat, with a little under five left to play.)
11:31 PM: With that James jumper, actually going to leave my perch to position myself courtside for the end of the game.
11:32 PM: As if! Who can turn away from this for even a second?!
11:32 PM: San Antonio wants you to #RememberGame7. With that Duncan and-one, they only trail by three.
11:35 PM: LeBron has attempted 10 threes tonight. That ties his season-high (he hit seven of those 10, verus the New Orleans Hornets).
11:36 PM: Wade is making me eat my first quarter words, as he drops in a tough layup. Heat by five.
11:37 PM: Leonard for three! Two point game. My legs are literally shaking!
11:39 PM: With one minute and 39 seconds to go in regulation, the Miami Heat lead the San Antonio Spurs 90-88. This is what these dudes practice all those years and hours for.
11:40 PM: With 39 seconds to play, the Heat lead by two and have possession of the ball. Fourteen seconds are left on the shot clock. It does NOT get better than this (unless you’re a Spurs fan).
11:42 PM: And arena employees are readying the now-infamous yellow rope courtside. For whose celebration is still TBD.
11:44 PM: LeBRON JAMES RISE AND FIRE! Heat lead by four, 28 seconds to play. (LBJ has 35, 12 and 4.)
11:49 PM: At 12 minutes before midnight, the Miami Heat have captured their second straight Larry O’Brien trophy. Thus concludes one of the greatest NBA Finals of the modern era. Thank you so much for joining SLAMonline all season long (and me tonight)! Keep an eye out for our extensive NBA Draft coverage.