After game six Popovich did his presser with a bunch of guys for whom, sorry, but English did not seem to be their native tongue, and who did not seem clear on what had just happened.
He therefore got away with not having to answer some of the specific questions raised by what had just happened. Some of that was that the game ran so long, past 12:30 a.m., that most of the real journalists were on or past deadline, but still.
ESPN just showed Lebron’s pre-game locker room talk, and he was asked what he means by “Leaving it all on the floor.” “It’s a sports term,’ he said. “If you don’t know what it means you must be in the wrong business.”
So tonight’s first question is: What with the media industry cutting staff left and right, and remembering that someone’s got to follow Aaron Hernandez to the convenience store – who in the world is covering these games?
8:40 p.m. – Penn State’s defeat of North Carolina in the 2001 NCAAs – the greatest moment in Penn State basketball history, to damn with faint praise – is now on the Big Ten Network. Julius Peppers ballin for the Heels.
Couple of things for tonight: I think I heard someone say in the WWL tonight that the Heat was something like -65 in this series with Lebron and Wade on the floor together, which punctuates something I’ve been thinking:
When Wade went nuts in game four, it started with Lebron on the bench and, critically, Wade essentially playing Lebron’s role. When Lebron went nuts Tuesday, it was with Wade on the bench and four shooters with him, opening up the floor.
The ideal setup for the Heat right now is probably for Wade to come off the bench, a la Ginobili, and for the Heat to run things through Wade, like a backup quarterback.
8:51: Simmons: Does Miami even need Dwayne Wade? These people have me monitored somehow.
8:54: Wilbon is spewing some absolute nonsense about how “sabermetrics,” is crap because players, not numbers, decide basketball games. That numbers decide basketball games is something no sentinent, halfway open-minded person could cull from anything that has ever been written about sabrmetrics.
Further, he (Wilbon) says he knows what he’s saying is true because he read it in Simmons’ book, which suggests basic, general reading comprehension might be an issue. Wow.
9:05: I am now watching a bit of “The Office,” thereby avoiding the national anthem/player intros and accompanying hoo-hah.
9:10: Jesse Williams …. why?
9:13: I can’t explain this, but to me, just visually, Jeff Van Gundy has always suggested a funeral director.
9:14: In a sea of white t-shirts, there’s a guy in a Steph Curry Golden St. jersey, royal blue, with the cable-car. Classic.
Can we get Steve Javie and Jesse Williams a talk-radio gig? Sports AND pop culture. Those kids are dynamic.
9:27: Good no-call on the Parker drive.
9:28: Good no-call on the Duncan block.
Anybody else see some Thad Young in Kawhi Leonard? That’s a compliment.
9:30: Time out, Spurs up 15-10. Both sides nervous, feeling their way into the game clumsily. Teams are a combined 11-33, with six turnovers. Spurs have fired off 20 shots already, less than 10 minutes in.
9:34: Duncan, Parker and Wade now out … Battier nails a three. Birdman gets a stick-back he probably wouldn’t have with Duncan there. And Battier for three again- they’re up, 18-15.
Danny Green, please pick up the white courtesy phone.
After a quarter, 18-16 Miami. Uninspiring so far. No legacies enhanced or deflated yet.
Ray Allen, flush with success, thinks he’s back in a Spike Lee joint.
Shane Battier makes third three, says he’s tired of carrying this offense.
Good point by Van Gundy – when Parker’s in the game and Lebron isn’t, Parker has to be super-aggressive.
Back from a break, and Lebron still isn’t out there, which suggests Spoelstra realizes he needs to watch James’ minutes more closely.
9:55: Biding time, it feels like. Playing the first half to get to the second. Drama coming, you’d think, but not much too look at right now, and certainly no advantage to anybody.
10:00: Lebron out there w/ unit that made run Tuesday- He gets old-style 3-pt play and then makes a three- Heat up six.
10:02: Neal forgets about shot clock, then remembers, and banks in a 26-footer. Geez.
I like how when Duncan hits the floor, he suddenly snaps to his feet, like it’s basic training or something.
10:10: Play remains inelegant, but is getting fierce. Wade, Duncan, Parker, Leonard have all been pretty good, Lebron in and out as usual. Miami up three.
10:12: Ray Allen has it taken from him on the dribble for the fourth time. C’mon man.
This is what you want… (the mute button) …. this is what you get … (the mute button) … sing it with me …. WTF?
10:14: Brutal call puts Danny Green on line and incites good tirade – directed more at Mike Breen and Javie than the call – from Van Gundy. Starting to have fun.
Heat going for last shot of half… Wade makes a killer jumper as half ends. He’s been very good, has 14 and six boards. LeBron has 15. Duncan and Parker have 13 and 10. Heat leads 46-44. Absolutely no damaging blows have been landed.
10:25: Wilbon bemoans statistics, makes argument with statistics. It never fails.
“You don’t win game 7s, you survive game 7s…. Game 7s are decided within six feet of the rim …. Game 7s are the times that try men’s souls. … Game 7s are about puppy dogs and soft summer rain…. Game 7s are long, passionate kisses …. let’s settle down, Simmons.
How many guys in the whole freakin’ league can match up with Lebron, on both ends, like Kawhi Leonard?
Spurs begging Lebron to shoot threes, and he’s now made three of them. Heat up 2, 9:25 left in the third.
10:50: Feels like its turning a bit toward the Spurs. Green hits a three, his first, to put his team up one.
Spoelstra changes the lineup, kinda goes big… Lebron makes two straight threes to put Heat up six, followed by an insane move and plus-one by Leonard, who is a freakish athlete even by NBA standards. The Lebron threes could be fool’s gold, of course.
10:55: Game picking up considerably. Boris Freakin Diaw makes a big 3, then hits Duncan for layup. Feels like Spurs weathered a mini-storm.
11:00: Spurs up one, late third, Wade, Bosh and Parker on bench… and the shot clock goes out.
Gary Neal has two field goals – a banked-in 26-footer and a hook shot.
OK, but then Chalmers banks in a deep three at the quarter buzzer- 72-71 Miami with 12 minutes left. Let’s rock, baby.
11:11: God almighty is Leonard a stud.
Weirdly, Parker isn’t much of a factor. Heat really starting to scramble defensively. Starting to look like the more athletic team which, of course, they are.
Never seen a series where players drop in and out of key roles so dramatically. Norris Cole hasn’t played since game 5. Battier, who DNPd in previous games, has been huge tonight and scored 15. Ray Allen and Bosh, who combined for one of the bigger plays in NBA history Tuesday, have a combined zero points on 0-for-8 shooting.
11:30: Miami right on the verge of seizing it for a while now, but can’t quite do it. They’re up four with 4:50 left.
But Spurs get a while three from Ginobili and then a steal… and Green’s contested three, that would have tied it, won’t go.
And now the teams are crazily one-upping each other. Lebron drills a jumper, then sets up Battier, who has 18 (!) for a huge three… And Duncan answers with a plus-one on the other end. Duncan seemed to be tiring a bit ago, but he has 24 and 11 and still doing work.
Holy crap what a pass from Battier. Heat up five with two minutes left … and Kawhi Leonard, who might be as good a competitor as he is an athlete, drills a monstrous three.
Chalmers at the line, team up 2, 1:39 left, misses two.
Leonard, getting carried away, misses a three….
Holy moley- both sides seemingly gagging a bit now- Insane sequence ends with Duncan missing two easy ones inside, and Miami still leads by two, with the ball and 39 ticks remaining.
Lebron…. 17 footer …. money. Heat up four, 27.9 left.
Ginobili throws it away. Lebron on the line, :23.5 left. He drills two. 94-88.
Wow- Ginobili airballs a ridiculous three. There’s a fine line between brave and stupid, folks….. and it’s over. 95-88.
Box score: Duncan 24 and 12, Leonard 19 and 16, Ginobili 18, but four turnovers that felt like 40. Parker scored 10, on 4-of-12 shooting, and disappeared for long stretches.
And for the Heat- Battier 18 huge ones, Chalmers 14, Wade 23 and 10 on 11 of 21 shooting … and 37 points, on 12 of 23 FG, and 5-10 3pt shooting with 12 rebounds, for that Lebron James.
Bottom line, the Spurs begged Lebron to shoot jumpers, and he shot them and made them. I had a fleeting thought, as this one was ending, that maybe this will start to move the American perception needle in Lebron’s direction.
And then I see this tweet from Steven Bench (what is it about former Penn State QBs and Twitter?), right after Lebron drilled that late 17-footer that, more than any other single shot, was the dagger:
The way Lebron celebrated after that shot tells me a lot. He didn’t expect to make that. He doesn’t expect to make the important ones
Good God. It takes some powerful determination to be that ridiculous, but that’s the world we live in.
And we’re out. More tomorrow.