I had originally planned on doing a retro diary about game six, but I just got so engrossed with the game that I forgot to write - twice. It was such an amazing game. It had everything you would want in a clinching game: excitement, unpredictability, pantheon performances from two amazing players (Tim Duncan and LeBron James), an old vet (Ray Allen) hitting an amazing shot to extend the game and a player (Chris Bosh) that takes such a pounding from the media that he's perceived as borderline out of the league when, in fact, he's actually a top 25 player in the league and one of the five best at his position.
I am going to cover a lot of those things in more depth in the game seven preview tomorrow. However, I'd like to take some time to discuss Mr. Tim Duncan.
At one point before halftime I tweeted that Tim Duncan could taste the champagne. He was on pace to have one of the greatest Finals performances ever in a clinching game. Everyone knew Miami was going to come out hot, and that was proven by Bosh hitting an 18- footer fourteen seconds into the game.
How did Duncan respond?
He hit his first eight shots, was 11-13 from the floor, and had 25 points and eight rebounds in the first half.
It didn't matter whom the Heat put on Duncan in the first half-none of them could come close to stopping him. Bosh, Chris Andersen, Shane Battier and LeBron James all took a shot at Duncan throughout the first half. Some were on switches, but most got the call to try straight up.
Tim Duncan tasted the champagne even more so in the third quarter. San Antonio built a 13-point lead and Duncan was 2-3 from the floor and 1-1 from the line for five points. His legacy was about to get a huge boost.
Why was this game so important for Duncan? Despite how much media the Heat and LeBron James command, this was his chance to get that fifth championship, be undefeated in a Finals series, tie Kobe Bryant in ring count, and fully cement his legacy as the greatest power forward ever (this is probably already established and decided). He would join Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell and Larry Bird in the ranks of the top 5 greatest of all time, knocking out Wilt Chamberlain. He's also trying to establish himself as the greatest player of this generation.
In his fifteen year career he's never missed the playoffs, played in 210 total playoff games, averaging 21.9 PPG, 12 RPG, 2.5 BPG and shooting 50% from the field while playing almost 40 minutes a game. Up until this year he was the best player on his team (Tony Parker took that over), he's a 14 time All-Star (only time he ever missed was 1999 and there was no All-Star game thanks to the lockout-but he did win MVP in 2000), he's a three time Finals MVP, two time regular season MVP, ten time All NBA First Team, three time all second team, third team appearance, Rookie of the Year, eight time all defensive team, six time all defensive second team and probably the most uncontroversial star since the aforementioned Bill Russell.
This is the storyline that is completely getting overshadowed. We're all focusing on Danny Green and his shooting, Tony Parker and his emergence and Manu Ginobili and his doneness. It's also so easy to completely disregard this storyline as LeBron James is trying to work his way into the top five of all time conversation.
A couple weeks ago Bill Simmons wrote a column that dispelled that Tim Duncan and the Spurs were boring. Hopefully my words help many realize how absolutely undervalued Duncan is. A Tim Duncan in his prime is one of the five guys you'd want to build a franchise around. I'm not talking just current players, but all time.
I was never the most athletic person, but when I played basketball I completely relied on fundamentals on the court to be good. Maybe that is why I idolize him so much and am a bit offended when people disregard him. He was never as flashy as a Kevin Garnett, nor did he have the animalistic intensity of a Charles Barkley, the outward, public desire like Kobe Bryant, or the jump-out-of-the-gym ability of Dwight Howard or Blake Griffin.
Through three quarters Tim Duncan was well on his way to a pantheon game. He legitimately had a chance for a 40-20 game. This would have put him up there in the annals of Bill Russell's 30 point, 40 rebound performance in game seven of the 62 Finals, or, two games earlier, when Elgin Baylor had 61 points, 22 rebounds in game five. It would have probably been bigger than the near quadruple-double that everyone forgets about that he had in game six of the 2003 Finals (21-20-10-8 and NBA.com's 20th greatest Finals performance ever).
He then disappeared.
Duncan did not score again. He was 0-4 in the fourth quarter with two rebounds and 0-1 in overtime with a rebound. Like LeBron James did in the first three quarters (or pre-headband removal), he disappeared. Tim Duncan was a non-factor in the fourth quarter and overtime. Not to say it was entirely his fault. It wasn't.
The Heat were more physical with him in the second half; maybe it wore him down and he just couldn't finish like 2003 Tim Duncan would have.
He has one more shot tomorrow night during game seven to fully establish his legacy. He will be 38 during next year's playoffs, so unlike LeBron he doesn't have at least ten more chances at a championship. Tim Duncan's game seven may be his final chance at that fifth championship, and he will be looking to make it count.