In fact, they might have enough left to get another title.
The Spurs won a game they almost had to win on Sunday, when they took apart the Heat and its celebrated Big Three, 114-104, to go up 3-2 in the Finals.
Miami once won 27 straight games this season, looking invincible every step of the way. But now LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can’t win even two games in a row. They haven’t done that since closing out Chicago then winning Game 1 against the Pacers. To avert an all-out disaster, the Heat now must win Games 6 and 7 back home in Miami to defend its championship. Otherwise, it’s going to make for possibly the longest summer for Miami’s superstars, starting, of course, with James.
After ripping apart the Spurs with 85 points in Game 4, Miami’s Big Three was back at it on Sunday. But this time, they met their match, scoring only 10 fourth-quarter points when the Spurs had already run away with this game.
This doesn’t mean that the Spurs are going to roll into South Beach and win on Tuesday to claim what would be the greatest title of the Duncan era. But they have two chances to get one more win and they have to like their odds, in part because the Heat can’t post back-to-back win these days.
Tony Parker catches Miami’s Udonis Haslem (r.) by surprise here and leads all scorers with 26 points.
“Just haven’t been able to do it,” James said. “This is the position we’re in and the most important game is Game 6, and we can’t worry about a Game 7. The most important thing is being confident about getting a win. We are.”
So are the Spurs. By winning on Sunday, Duncan still has never trailed in a championship series, something that everyone should remember when judging where he stands among the all-time greats. No, he’s never won back-to-back titles and has never even been to two Finals in a row. But he’s never been worse than tied in the Finals. Now Duncan has two games to get one more win, which would be his greatest accomplishment, given that the Heat was favored in this series, started off with the home-court advantage and has the best player on the planet in James.
“They’re three incredible players, three of the best in the sport,” Duncan said. “But we want this really badly, from the top on down.”
They played that way in the last stages of the third period and first few minutes of the fourth, when the Spurs refused to buckle after the Heat drew within a point at 75-74. If this was the last hurrah for Duncan, Ginobili and Parker in a Finals home game, they did themselves proud.
Especially the much-maligned Ginobili. There were calls for Gregg Popovich to give the Argentine less time in Game 5 after he had looked old and done in the first four games of the series. He had made only 10 baskets and only 35% of his shots as he could never shake Miami’s athletic defenders.
Here’s what Popovich said to all the Ginobili critics: Stick it.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Manu Ginobili (r.), here guarding LeBron James, has a throwback game on Sunday night.
He started his sixth man for the first time all season, giving him 33 minutes.
Ginobili responded with his best game of the playoffs, going for 24 points and 10 assists and keying a 23-6 run after the Heat made it a one-point game late in the third quarter. He was the catalyst, finding cracks and seams in Miami’s defense with three huge driving shots in the closing minutes of the quarter.
“I was upset by the criticism,” he said. “Sometimes it affects you a little bit.”
The last two days off might have done the Spurs’ elder statesmen a world of good.
“This time of the year, waiting is like death,” Popovich said beforehand. “You want to go play. You’ve been doing this a long time, and it just seems interminable. It’s forever. Speaking selfishly, the two days were great because we’re a little bit older. We need a little bit more time.”
They needed the rest because Duncan is 37 and Ginobili is 36. They needed the extra rest to come back against a Big Three that had outscored them by 45 points in Miami’s Game 4 win.
But on Sunday, the Spurs had the best Big Three on the floor. Now with one more win, San Antonio’s trio will have title No. 4.
And their biggest one. By far.