San Antonio's Revenge, Segment B
(originally written 6/20/14)
The question is: since it took James' departure to unleash a Danny Green scoring flurry that pushed San Antonio ahead to stay, is the Spurs' win legit? If they'd gone on to a seven-game series victory, should there be an asterisk due to the fact their building contributed to the unavailability of the best player on Earth—let alone the best player on Miami's roster?
The answer: a resounding yes. If we dare illegitimize the Spurs title in any way, then we must do so to their '99 title against the Patrick Ewing-less Knicks, and their '07 title against the Cavs (their second-leading scorer Larry Hughes missed two games and was badly hampered in the two he did play, averaging one point per game.)
The whole purpose of putting the "Big Three" together, at least ostensibly, was so no one man had to carry the load. Wade and Bosh each spent years as franchise players, surely capable of closing out the final four minutes of a big game. But that didn't happen.
When James gave out, Miami was on the verge of icing Game One. But for the reasons mentioned above, Miami could and should have already been up big, given all the extra possessions gifted to them by the sloppy Spurs. However...
"The Super" Mario Chalmers, a 10-ppg regular season scorer, saddled himself with fouls and didn't score until the 4th quarter (Miami's final points). Starting F Rashard Lewis scored one first-half basket. Ray Allen inexplicably clanked three consecutive triples at one point (though he still finished with 16 points, including six in a row in the third punctuated by an emphatic transition dunk over Danny Green). Shane Battier got off one shot in 14 minutes (a miss.) Norris Cole missed all three of his 3-point attempts, contributing a lone bucket.
Furthermore, the Heat committed several unforced errors of their own, at times lapsed defensively (see: Manu Ginobili three-point play off a side-out inbound, Ginobili's 3rd-quarter drive past Wade the Matador, multiple Chalmers errors), somehow let themselves get whistled for a 5-second violation, lost a three-pointer when Chris Bosh stepped out of bounds just before drilling it, and even blew a 3-on-1 fast break! (Even as Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard won't get nearly enough credit for that 3rd-quarter play.)
Marco Belinelli—the ex-Warrior who seemed lost at times during his Golden State days—chipped in a pair of ballsy, "answer" 3's in response to Heat buckets that threatened to shift the momentum. And even when he bricked an "answer" 3 attempt following a fortuitous Lewis layup in the 3rd, Ginobili picked him up with a 3-point play! So disappointing (euphemizing "terrible") in the 2013 Finals, Manu was a man on a mission this time around.
All he did: enter the game sinking back-to-back triples, bullet-feed Splitter—another 2013 Finals underperformer seeking redemption—for a layup (along with two other assists) and sink another three in his first six minutes of action. The only glaring blemish on Ginobili was allowing Chalmers to dupe, then blow past him on a fast break. Splitter drew charges, swatted away a James layup (somewhat avenging James' memorable dunk stuff from the '13 Finals) and threw in a tough, falling flip reverse layup to end the third quarter!