The Heat have decided to shut the perimeter guys down by playing Duncan straight-no fronting, Bosh behind. Fronting necessitates the weak-side corner defender to shade the paint, which opens the floor for shooters.
So much for playing Duncan straight. I thought Ray would have a classic game. Nope. Forgot about those Duncan close-out games. A near quadruple-double cannot be emphasized enough. Timmy is swallowing Bosh. It's not that he's not missed: it is the type of shot. Right next to the hoop, point blank, explosion, dunks. The first quarter was the Tim Duncan show.
I thought LeBron would guard Parker the whole game, but Rio is starting on him. There is a little fatigue concern with LeBron guarding Parker though.
Shane Battier bobbles the ball and hits a bank-shot 3. Remember: a bank-shot three proved to be a difference in one of the games against the Thunder last year. Could this game (title?) be decided by a random bounce like this?
Mario Chalmers is doing a good job attacking on offense. It's hard to do
with Wade and Bosh on the floor. Wade hasn't been terrible though. If the Hear could get 15+ from Rio, would be big.
The Splitter/Ginobili pairing is continuing to struggle. The Heat don't fear Manu despite Game 5's proceedings, which is probably the smart, veteran thing to do. Good on you, Spo.
Tim Duncan has digested Chris Bosh. All that's left is a carcass. Chris has tried hard on defense but is just not a match physically. And on offense, Chris has somehow hit an even lower point. He is now hesitating on open 18 foot jumpers, then dumping it to someone else. Remember: he was THE BEST MID-RANGE SHOOTER IN THE LEAGUE during the regular season, especially from the elbows. He looks psyched-out.
Timmy is now moving to dessert: Chris Andersen. We are heading to a 40 point, 20 rebound game with 80% shooting.
The Spurs score 11 straight, 7 straight from Duncan, to end the half up 6. It feels like they're up 16. Miami had some things going but ended the half horribly and Duncan is showing no signs of stopping.
The clock has officially struck midnight on Chris and Dwyane. Chris is already showing pumpkin-like signs. How fast do the Heat trade him if they lose? A week? The next morning? That night in LeBron's presser?
Why doesn't Mile Miller drive more often? That was an awkward-looking move, but effective. Oh right, he is one of their only reliable shooters at this point.
Heat turnovers are killing them. Spo has taken 2 timeouts in what seems like 30 seconds. TOs and fouls and the Spurs are up by 12. If Green or Neal heat, watch out. Spurs up by 10 going into the fourth.
I feel the Heat have one more run. One more stretch with LeBron and the shooters. If the Spurs survive that with a ~5 point cushion, Parker and Duncan take them home.
Uh oh. Splitter in the game. LeBron's eyes just turned into Tim Duncan's eyes. Yup, Miami scores on three straight possessions to force a San Antonio timeout. Tiago has actually made a couple nice offensive moves, and oh yup, there it is. The LeBron dunk. This may be a turning point. The Spurs are still up by 4, but when was the last time you saw LeBron dunk? It feels like it's been forever even though I think he dunked earlier this game.
Duncan back. Doesn't matter. LeBron with the putback dunk. Headband off. Miller, shoe off. Splash, three, wet.
Ray with the clutch drive to the rim! Heat are up. They had their run and LeBron looks engaged. He has blanketed Parker on defense. His length combined with Bosh's make the pocket pass dicey even as Bosh hedges softly. LeBron is doing a great job and getting over screens and Bosh is recovering well. Chris having a good defensive quarter, and finally forces a Duncan miss. In related news, where has Duncan been?
Wade enters the game for Miller. Spo taking shooting and rebounding off the floor for gambling defense and... I'm not sure what else Wade gives you.
Wade clanks a jumper them gets to the line for 2 on a nice pump fake. That jumper though... You run an out-of-timeout post play for Wade? REALLY? Spo is a good play caller but that was a disaster. You can have Wade posting Green on almost any possession. Don't do it out of a timeout. Don't do it in the fourth up 3. Friends don't let friends post Wade.
Parker. A clutch flop. LeBron is too strong, too big. Parker, the frail child. The refs fall for it.
Parker. Tony Parker. Rocks back and jacks a three right in LeBron's face. Kirk Goldsberry would later tell me Parker has taken just three top-of-the-arc threes all year. It doesn't matter. It's ridiculous.
PARKER!!!! Takes Rio into the paint on a transition switch, spins, and puts it in for the lead!
After a handful of Manu free throws (he goes 3-4), Spurs by 5. Insanity ensues. LeBron misses a three at the top. Wade pokes the ball away. Ball is high in the air, perched atop outstretched bodies. One body does not halt on its ascent. That body is Wade's. He tips to Ray, Ray bumps to Miller, Miller shovels to LeBron, LeBron hits. Spurs by two. They call timeout, advance the ball. The inbounds goes to Kawhi, he turns and Miller fouls him with his outstretched fingertips. So much riding on outstretched fingertips. Kawhi with huge free throws. The first: in-and-out. Big. Huge. Makes the second.
No timeouts, LeBron gets a screen from Bosh, catch and shoot, too strong! The ball again bounces straight up. Green, Ray, and Bosh reach for it. Bosh comes down with it! 7 seconds left. Ray fades to the corner. Muscle memory. One, two, three perfect steps, fully balanced. He gets the ball from Bosh. His right foot steps back, behind the line. He is on the edge of being out of bounds, his heels elevated. He is on the edge of being inside the line, where a 2-pointer is worthless except to personal tragedy. He is on the edge of glory, salvation, and damnation. The ball rests between his fingers. His calves bulge, the aqua titanium stickers promoting blood flow. His arms raise the ball high, still balanced. Release. Fingers send the ball like a messenger to the basketball gods and for a moment in the air, you can freeze a caption of the perfect shot, only this shot is the highest leverage attempt (per Neil Paine) of Ray's life.
Splash. Bang. Overtime. Exhale and inhale.
Welcome back, Chris. It's been a while. His strong quarter of play continues with adequate defense and some points. Kwawhi madly atoning for the missed freebie. With the first safety valve, the three, taken, the middle is open and Kwawhi is feasting.
Tony continues to disappear. Wants no part of LeBron. The game slows down, taking away Parker's advantage in freneticism. LeBron follows over one screen, then two. The offense stalls. Manu throws it away and then Green with the block! More defense from the greatest Finals shooter to ever live.
Defense takes over. Whistles are swallowed. Diaw gets in the way, and Ray pries the ball turnover. Heat by 3. I'm glad the refs swallowed the whistle. Manu has to be strong. He has to want it. Ray hits the freebies. What a motion.
Last play. Screen for Green one way, screen the other. Splitter leans and destroys Ray. For a magical second, Green, the greatest Finals shooter to ever live, comes open. The shot is on the other side of the floor from the inbounding Duncan. Where was Duncan? It floats in the air too long. Bosh has switched, the Heat recovered. Green is in the corner, the deadliest, shortest of threes. Green in the corner, the coffin corner, no choice but to shoot. Bosh knows. He meets Green, and rejects this attempt by the greeted Finals shooter to ever live.
The Heat win, relieved, one more shot at a title. The Spurs lose, devastated, one more shot at a title. I am both relieved and devastated. One more game of this?