Ahhhh, my friends, the greatest spectacle in sports is upon us: Game 7. For some, legacies will be cemented tonight. For others, dreams will become reality. And for a few, their place in history as an “all-time great” will finally come true.
A few thoughts floating in my mind for tonight’s Game 7 I’d like to share with you before you crack open the beer and turn on the game.
- Will Manu Ginobili Show Up Tonight?
There’s no question Manu Ginoibli is not the same player who once was. His play has been anywhere from inconsistent to stellar to terrible in these playoffs. When Manu played out of his mind in Game 6, he was the reason the Spurs broke the game open and routed the Heat to take a 3-2 lead. Manu doesn’t need to lead the Spurs in scoring or play the best game of his career, but he does need to be a difference maker. Manu needs to do what Manu does best: take the ball to the hole, penetrate, kick the ball out to open shooters, and DON’T TURN THE BALL OVER.
- The Spacing Between LeBron James and Dwayne Wade
The deficiencies between LeBron James and Dwayne Wade have been evident in these Finals. The Heat are -56 when James and Wade have been on the floor together. The lack of efficiency is astounding, but nevertheless, Erik Spoelstra needs to find a way to maximize their abilities when they’re on the floor together. We can’t lie to ourselves and think Wade will be the go-to-guy when they need a bucket, but Wade hit some big buckets to keep the Spurs from taking over Game 6 in the 3rd Quarter when they were up by ten. Keep your eyes on how LeBon and DWade play together tonight, especially in the 1st and 4th quarter.
- What Does Pop Have Up His Sleeve?
Gregg Popovich has time and time again shown that he is the smartest coach in the NBA. When the experts were all telling Pop to decrease Ginobli’s minutes to give Gary Neal more playing time, what’d he do? He inserted Ginobli into the starting lineup, and Ginobli had his best game of the season. The man is the NBA’s version of Bill Belicheck; you never know what his next move will be. There’s no doubt in my mind Pop has something up his sleeve for Game 7. Whether it’s throwing in Matt Bonner in the 2nd Quarter to hit some 3’s and get the blood pumping back in the Spurs, or work some magic to slow down LeBron when he drives to the paint. Pop will definitely throw a couple punches we haven’t seen before. I’m interested to see which angle Pop attacks and throws at the Heat.
- Who Will Guard Tony Parker in the 4th Quarter?
Tony Parker is the key that ignites the engine in the Spurs offense. He creates so much offensive for his team by penetrating and getting to the bucket faster than any other point guard in the league. He’s crafty, quick, and smart. Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers are serviceable point guards, but they’re strengths are on the offensive end, not playing lock-down defense. In Game 6, the Heat called upon LeBron to defend Tony Parker in the 4th Quarter. Parker was just 2-6 when James was on him in the 4th Quarter of Game 6, and LeBron forced Parker into a tough shot at the end of regulation to force overtime. If Spoelstra asks LeBron to take on Parker more in Game 7, that will leave Kwahi Leonard with a possible mismatch, but that chance is one the Heat must take. Parker will tear the Heat defense to shreds if James does not take him on, especially when it counts in the 4th Quarter. Watch to see which Heat player is defending Parker late in the 4th Quarter. My money is on LeBron.
- The Only Question That Really Matters, What Will LeBron Do?
LeBron has had his back against the wall many times before, and more times than not, has played the best basketball of his career when it’s for all the marbles. We all remember his meltdown in Cleveland (sorry to bring up raw memories Cavs fans), but it seems to be as sure a bet that LeBron will step up his game when his team needs him most. He struggled in the first three quarters of Game 6, but LeBron came alive in the 4th Quarter and Overtime to help the Heat pull off the miraculous comeback and force Game 7. He needs this title as much as any Heat player to prove that his decision to “take his talents to South Beach” was worth all the scrutiny and criticism he received three years ago. I’ve come to expect greatness from LeBron, and I don’t expect anything short of it tonight. He’s the greatest player on the planet; no one can dispute that. But if he wants to cement his stone in history as the greatest basketball player of all time, he needs to prove to the world that it’s not the first title that’s the sweetest, it’s every one after that that really leaves a good taste in your mouth. I have faith he will rise to the challenge.
Prediction: Heat win 97-93