With 28 seconds left, the San Antonio Spurs led the Miami Heat 94-89 in Game Six of the 2013 NBA Finals. That 28 seconds has undoubtedly been burned in the memory of every San Antonio player and fan for the past year. LeBron James hits a second chance three to make it a two point game and Kawhi Leonard missed one of his two free throws to make it 95-92. Lebron again takes a three and misses, Chris Bosh gets the rebound, and kicks it to Ray Allen, who makes one of the biggest shots in NBA history, tying the game with a three-point shot. Ultimately, however, it was all for naught. After winning the Western Conference for the second year in a row, the Spurs will get a chance to avenge that loss from last years’ Finals.
The 2013 NBA Finals will be forever remembered by sports fans for the amazing game-tying shot by Ray Allen in Game Six, but for the players, it will always be remembered as what could have been. What if Leonard had made both his free throws? What if Tim Duncan was on the floor to grab the rebound instead of Chris Bosh getting it? What if the 2013 Finals were formatted like the 2014 Finals and Game Six would have been in San Antonio? These are the questions that the Spurs have had to ponder all year waiting for this chance to beat the Heat this year.
Almost every season since Tim Duncan’s arrival in San Antonio, the goal for the team has been to get to the finals and win the title. This year, however, there was extra motivation to get back to the Finals, especially if they could get a chance to face the Heat again. The Spurs went about their regular season as they normally do, winning effectively and efficiently. During that time there were no players coming out and saying anything about wanting a rematch with the Heat. That all changed after they were able to defeat the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals to ensure the 2013 finals rematch. Almost immediately after beating the Thunder, the Spurs started to let on in interviews how much they had this rematch on their minds. The most notable was Tim Duncan, who rarely shows the media any emotion. After the victory over the Thunder, he made the point clear in post game interviews that the whole team wanted the Heat and that was on their minds since last season’s loss.
It will not be any easier for the Spurs to defeat the Heat this time around. The Heat have the best player in the world in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade is playing a lot better coming into this years’ Finals as opposed to last season when he seemed sluggish and beat up. The Spurs are healthier this season as well. An overlooked aspect of last years’ Finals was the health of Manu Ginobili, who had a very underwhelming Finals in 2013. This year, Ginobili will come into the Finals healthy and playing very well. The big question for the Spurs this season has been the health of point guard Tony Parker. In Game Six against the Thunder, Parker did not play in the second half, and without him, beating the Heat seems nearly impossible. Parker has been cleared to play, but only time will tell how effective he can actually be.
It means a lot to the Spurs to avenge the loss from the 2013 NBA Finals and beat the Heat this year. Coach Gregg Popovich will have them ready for anything that comes at them, but in the end, it will come down to who wants it more, and the Spurs are not lacking in motivation. Whatever the outcome of this year’s NBA Finals, the sports world can only hope it is as thrilling as the 2013 edition.
Commentary by Max Petkevicius