MIAMI — Wednesday was a difficult day for the San Antonio Spurs. They were forced to reflect on their Game 6 breakdown that may have cost them a fifth NBA title. They watched the Miami Heat make several improbable plays down the stretch to steal the game in overtime and possibly the series.
And now they will be asked to play a better game and recover after a heart-wrenching defeat. The Spurs were crushed after Game 6, especially Manu Ginobili, who committed eight turnovers and said he was “terrible” and “devastated.”
About 12 hours later, the Spurs attempted to view their second chance Thursday night as a positive, realizing they were not sharp in the second half of Game 6 and yet were one play from winning.
After Game 6 ended near midnight, the Spurs had a team dinner where they shared horror stories of leads blown past, similar to 2013 NBA version of “A Christmas Carol.” The session was therapeutic, leaving the Spurs in a better frame of mind than Tuesday night.
“It was a great dinner. We shared histories and what happened in different games, and sharing stuff like when I was with the national team, when we were up 7 and lost in 35 seconds, the European Championship,” guard Tony Parker said. “You just share those moments and try to see what you can do better and prepare for Game 7.
“It definitely helped, because obviously in the locker room everybody was very disappointed. We knew that we blew a big opportunity to get it done, to win the championship. So it was great to just talk to everybody and make sure everybody doesn’t stay sad too long. It’s very important that we bounce back and that we forget last night.”
Fans in San Antonio will be hard pressed to forget Game 6 if the Spurs lose Thursday night, and coach Gregg Popovich was left to defend some of his puzzling late-game moves such as pulling Tim Duncan for the final two defensive sequences that resulted in offensive rebounds, or removing Parker for the final play of overtime, when Ginobili committed his eighth turnover.
The Heat used 3-pointers by LeBron James and Ray Allen in a span of 14.9 seconds to send the game into OT. The Spurs led, 94-89, with 28.2 seconds left but Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard missed free throws to allow the improbable rally.
“It’s not that simple [inserting Duncan]. That’s not why they got the threes,” Popovich snapped at a question as to why Duncan was sitting. “We were up 5 when they got their first 3. And so reading and switching [lineups] makes sense just to take away the three. But on an offensive rebound, it’s one of the toughest things in the NBA, to pick up people. And we had one guy who didn’t pick up. LeBron shot an air ball, when we were up 5. They got the rebound, they got it back to him and he knocked it down.’’
The Heat’s wild overtime win drew the second-largest audience for a Game 6 since ABC started televising the series in 2003, watched by an average of 20.6 million viewers. The Heat’s Game 6 loss to Dallas in 2011, when the Mavericks clinched the title, had the most with 23.9 million . . . James said he will play Thursday with his customary headband after going the final 8:04 of regulation and overtime without it after a hard foul from Ginobili sent it sailing into the stands. James said he hadn’t played without one since a preseason game during his rookie season with Cleveland . . . Bosh had no sympathy for fans who left AmericanAirlines Arena when the Spurs appeared to have clinched the game and tried to return to no avail. “You never give up. People gave up on us, and they can stay where they are and watch [Game 7] at home. Yeah, you can’t get let back in after you leave. I know that. Hell, I’ve been to games. You can’t leave a game and then come back. It doesn’t make any sense. You left. It’s not punishment; that’s protocol.”