It all comes down to tonight in Miami for the top two teams in the NBA: Western Conference champs San Antonio and stars Tony Parker and Tim Duncan and Eastern Conference champ Miami and LeBron James. The Heat rallied to win Game 6 late Tuesday night after sending it to overtime on a late Ray Allen 3-pointer, then winning, 103-100, to force Game 7.
Want To Watch?
WHO: San Antonio Spurs at Miami Heat.
WHAT: Game 7 of NBA Finals.
WHEN: 9 p.m. today.
SERIES: Tied, 3-3.
MIAMI — One of the most thrilling championships in history will reach its climax tonight when the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs meet in a decisive Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
Basketball fans in the United States have been whipped into a frenzy of excitement by what has already been a classic series full of wild fluctuations and escalating drama.
The teams have raised their games to new heights, producing an extraordinary standard of play and athleticism which peaked with Miami’s exhilarating overtime win late Tuesday that tied the series at 3-3.
With everything on the line for Game 7, the stakes could not be higher with millions of people around the world expected to tune in for the grand finale.
“They’re the best two words in team sports, ‘Game 7,’ ” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said Wednesday. “Our guys aren’t looking for games that are less meaningful. We’re looking for games that are more meaningful. And there’s nothing bigger than a Game 7.”
As defending champions, Miami were overwhelming favorites to win the title. They were almost unstoppable during the regular season, winning a franchise-record 66 games, including a 27-game stretch that is the second longest in NBA history.
With LeBron James, the game’s best player and biggest star, at the peak of his powers alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the Heat’s Big Three seemed a sure bet to win back-to-back championships.
But the Spurs, chasing their fifth championship since 1999, have answered the challenge with their own ‘Big Three’ of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
“That’s what this series is about, it’s the competition,” Spoelstra said. “It’s not just statistics. It’s not all the other storylines. It’s about the competition against an equal opponent.”
The first six games were a seesawing battle with the teams alternating wins and losses. If that pattern continues in Game 7, San Antonio will be crowned champions, but history favors Miami, which have the homecourt advantage for the finale in the 2-3-2, best-of-seven format.
Of the 17 previous NBA Finals that have gone seven games, the visiting team has won just three times. The most recent was 35 years ago when the Washington Bullets upset the SuperSonics in Seattle.
“I don’t really care what it’s been like for anybody else at any time,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich growled. “All I know is we have had a hell of a year, and we have an opportunity to win a championship (tonight). That’s all that matters.”
The series was elevated to one of the all-time greats after Tuesday’s breathtaking finish, which has been described as one of the greatest games in NBA history after Miami pulled off a miracle comeback.
Needing a win the keep the series alive, Miami trailed by 13 points late in the third quarter and by five with 28 seconds to play in regulation after they had already fought back to take the lead.
Ray Allen, the sport’s greatest three-point shooter of all-time, drained one from behind the arc with five seconds remaining to force overtime, where Miami went on to snatch a 103-100 victory.
James scored a game-high 32 points, but no one is under more pressure than him in Game 7. He is playing for a second championship and his place in history.
Despite being awarded the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award four times, including this season, the 28-year-old continues to earn unflattering comparisons to Michael Jordan, who won five MVP awards and six championships with the Chicago Bulls.
James is appearing in just his fourth Finals. He lost his first with Cleveland then his second after moving to Miami three years ago.
He broke through for his first win last season but knows only too well he will bear the brunt of the blame should Miami fail to repeat.
“It is what it is. I understand the moment for me,” James said Wednesday. “I’m going to be excited. I’m going to have some butterflies. I’ll be nervous, everything. That’s how I should be.”
After losing a late lead in Game 6 in devastating fashion, the San Antonio Spurs attempt to become the first road team in 35 years to win Game 7 of the NBA Finals in Thursday’s decisive matchup with the Miami Heat. San Antonio had a five-point lead with 28.1 seconds left in regulation on Tuesday before Miami rallied to force overtime and eventually claim a 103-100 victory. The Heat haven’t won back-to-back games in four weeks.
Miami trailed by 13 points late in the third quarter of Game 6 and the home fans were scurrying to the exits when the Heat were behind by five points in the final half-minute. But Ray Allen drained the game-tying 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds left and Miami outplayed San Antonio over the second half of overtime to keep alive its hopes of winning back-to-back titles. “It’s so hard. It’s the hardest thing,” forward LeBron James said Wednesday of repeating as champion. “I said last year was the hardest thing I’ve ever done - winning my first. Last year (doesn’t) even come close to what we’ve gone through in this postseason and in these finals.” The 1978 Washington Bullets were the last team to win a road Game 7 in the NBA Finals, beating the Seattle SuperSonics.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, ABC
ABOUT THE SPURS: Veteran guard Manu Ginobili said after Game 6 that he couldn’t see how his team could recover from the demoralizing loss. The mental side will be an important factor in Game 7 as will bouncing back physically, especially for 37-year-old power forward Tim Duncan. The first half of Game 6 was vintage Duncan as he scored 25 points on 11-of-13 shooting, but the future Hall of Famer had just five after halftime. “There’s no being tired at this point,” Duncan said in his Wednesday media session. “We’ve got one more game to win, and that’s all that matters.” Forward Kawhi Leonard had a monster 22-point, 11-rebound performance in Game 6 but 3-point shooter Danny Green had his first poor game of the series, going 1-of-5 from behind the arc. Green has made an NBA Finals record 26 3-pointers.
ABOUT THE HEAT: James rebounded from a slow start to notch his fourth career NBA Finals triple-double with 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. He scored 18 points in the fourth quarter and made a key 3-pointer in the late rally that was punctuated by Allen’s tying 3-pointer. The health of guard Dwyane Wade is a major concern after he injured his surgically repaired left knee in the first half of Game 6. Wade has been ineffective for much of the postseason due to an injured right knee. “There’s one game left,” Wade said Wednesday. “Whatever you have inside of you, you muster it up. So I’ll be fine.” Center Chris Bosh rejected Green’s tying 3-point attempt at the end of overtime and has posted four double-doubles in five games after underachieving for most of the postseason.
Miami is looking to become the fourth team to rally from a 3-2 deficit with two consecutive home victories. The others are the 1988 Los Angeles Lakers, the 1994 Houston Rockets and the 2010 Lakers.
Home teams have a 14-3 record in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
San Antonio is 4-0 in NBA Finals and only one of its previous series required a Game 7 - when the Spurs defeated the Detroit Pistons in 2005.
PREDICTION: Spurs 97, Heat 95