NBA Commentary: 2013 NBA Finals Recap, and What Led to the San Antonio Spurs Demise.
2013 NBA Finals.
For myself personally, it's a bittersweet feeling knowing that the 2012-2013 NBA season has come to a close. Of course I hate to see it end simply because I - along with many other fans, have to wait several months before the new season begins. On the flip side of the page, I'm happy that it's over due to the slight anxiousness I felt while watching the NBA Finals.
I've written in previous commentaries about my dislike for the current Miami Heat team. There's no point of me rehashing upon that. However, lets just say it's safe to say that I don't care much for teams that I feel are bought and not built. Besides all of that, I've been a fan of the San Antonio Spurs since the late 90's, so it's clear who I was pulling for to win the entire thing.
The Miami Heat successfully claimed their second straight NBA title. Their success came on the heels of a series that would ultimately go seven games, with them closing out the veteran San Antonio Spurs, who were seeking their fifth NBA title for their franchise. The series ended on June, 20 2013, and I'm still disappointed at the outcome. However, I've had some time to reflect, and I feel that I'm at the state of mind to write this commentary with somewhat of an open mind.
Before the Spurs/Heat series began, I laid out what I felt to be the keys to victory for both teams. Obviously, I'm not going to do that this time around. Based on what I saw in the NBA Finals, I'm going to address the elements that eventually led to the San Antonio Spurs demise in seeking that fifth title. Although I'm a Spurs fan, I feel that it's necessary for me to be critical of them. It's not that I prefer to be, however, I try to be a fan that calls things exactly as I see them.
Recap of the 2013 NBA Finals.
Before this series began, I laid out for both teams what I thought the keys to victory would be. I predicted a Spurs victory, but I also felt that if the series went seven games, then Miami would pull it out. As we would find out, the series indeed went seven games, and the Miami Heat were victorious.
This series went back and forth between the two teams. Neither team took total control of this series. It was almost like a pendulum swinging back and forth. San Antonio stole game one in Miami, only to be defeated in a blow out by Miami in game two. The Spurs bounced back from their loss in game two in a big way, as they would dismantle the Heat by the score of 113-77. San Antonio set a new NBA Finals record in this game with 16 made three pointers.
Miami bounced back in game four with a 109-93 victory over the Spurs in San Antonio. This win would tie the series back up at 2 games each. In game five, the Spurs displayed the sharpshooting that they showed in game three en route to a 114-104 victory. The Spurs took a 3-2 series lead, and it appeared that fifth championship trophy was in their grasp.
If the NBA Finals were a movie, game 6 would prove to be the game that provided the ultimate plot twist. San Antonio all but had the game won, as they maintained a 5 point lead with just under 30 seconds left in the game. Even Miami Heat fans thought that the game was out of reach, and many of them began to exit the arena. Missed free throws, and lack of rebounding cost the Spurs, as Miami shooting guard Ray Allen hit a game tying three pointer to send the game into overtime.The Spurs would ultimately lose game six in a devastating fashion by the score of 100-103. I personally felt that losing game six the way they did took a lot out of them.
Game seven was another closely contested game until the end. After a clutch three point shot by Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs only trailed by two with less than a minute to go. Veteran forward Tim Duncan would miss what seemed to be an easy close range shot with a smaller Shane Battier guarding him. Duncan was also unsuccessful with the tip in attempt. On the following possession, Miami's LeBron James would hit a jump shot that basically iced the game. The final score was 95-88, with Miami claiming their second straight NBA title.
San Antonio's Manu Ginobilli not only struggled in the NBA Finals, he struggled much of the 2013 NBA Playoffs.
What Led to the San Antonio Spurs Failing In Their Mission For a 5th Title?
So what lead to the Spurs meltdown in the NBA Finals? I'm going to point out a few things that I saw that kept them from being victorious. Before I begin, I want to state that I felt that the Heat were made to order for the Spurs. In my opinion, San Antonio made this series a lot harder than it had to be. In essence, I truly believe that they beat themselves.
- Critical Turnovers: Turnovers absolutely killed the Spurs in the games they lost, especially down the stretch in close games. In game two, the turnover margin was 16-6 in favor of Miami. In game four, the margin was 18-9 in Miami's favor. This tells us that Miami protected the ball better than the Spurs, and normally the teams that limit their turnovers often win games. This was unexpected however, as the veteran Spurs normally protect the ball well. They just didn't do it in the close games down the stretch.
- Limited Tony Parker and Manu Ginobilli: When most people think of 'The Big Three' in the NBA, the Miami Heat are the first team that comes to mind. The Spurs have their own big three in Tony Parker, Manu Ginobilli, and Tim Duncan. Duncan definitely played well in this series, as the Heat didn't have the size to match-up with him. However, both Ginobilli and Parker struggled in this series. Parker was playing through a leg injury, but was obviously disrupted being guarded by LeBron James, along with the defensive schemes Miami were giving him. Ginobilli on the other hand only had one game that he was effective in, which was game 5. Ginobilli record 24 points and 10 assists, but reverted to his previous play in games 6 and 7. I predicted that the Spurs needed all three of these guys to be big, but they just weren't able to pull it out.
- Role Players Cooled Off: San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green was excellent in games 3 and 5. Green was on fire from three point range at various times in this series, and even led the team in scoring in game 3. However, Green cooled off in the games the Spurs needed him most; games 6 and 7. He scored only three points in game 6, and 5 points in game 7. Spurs guard Gary Neal also had a big game in game three, but was ineffective going forward for the most part. Other role players like Tiago Splitter and Matt Bonner weren't effective in the two biggest games. Besides Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs got little help from their role players in games 6 and 7.
- Questionable Coaching Moves: I love Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, but he made some calls that were questionable in most people's eyes. For example, he took Tim Duncan, who is arguably the Spurs best rebounder out of game six down the stretch. Miami secured two rebounds that led to three point shots, one of which came from Ray Allen, who tied up game 6. Miami ultimately ended up winning this crucial game. Not sure what Coach Pop was thinking, but having your best rebounder in the game when you're up with only a few seconds left to go would have been a good idea.
- Mental Mistakes: For the San Antonio Spurs to be a veteran team, they certainly didn't play like one down the stretch in several games. In game six, the Spurs held onto a 5 point lead with under 30 seconds to go. Kawhi Leonard was fouled following the inbound pass, and went to the free throw line. If Leonard would have sunken both free throws, the game would have been out of reach for Miami. Leonard missed one of the 2 free throw attempts, which kept the game at one possession. That turned out to be one possession too many, so the Heat would send the game into overtime and win. Manu Ginobilli also missed a key three throw down the stretch. The mental fortitude it takes to win wasn't displayed by the Spurs when they needed to show it most. I found this very surprising.
Who Did You Have Picked to Win the NBA Finals?
The San Antonio Spurs Future?
So what's next for the veteran San Antonio Spurs? It's hard to say at this moment since the defeat is still fresh on their minds. Since they've won every NBA Finals appearance they've made prior to this one, it's still hard to swallow them losing. The fashion in which they lost in makes it even more hard to think about. There has been talk that maybe Manu Ginobilli should retire. However, Ginobilli recently revealed that he has no plans on retiring from the NBA. Ginobilli averaged just over 11 points per game off the bench during the regular season, which was the lowest he's averaged since his second year in the league.
Tim Duncan is 37 years old, and his time playing in the NBA is obviously running out. Duncan wanted to capture that fifth ring before he retired, and missing out on that opportunity in the way the Spurs did obviously has affected him. Following game seven, Duncan was quoted as saying; "Game 7 is always going to haunt me." Duncan re-signed with the Spurs in 2012, and plans on coming back next season. He still has the pieces around him to make another run at the title. However, I think he knows that his time is running out.
Tony Parker is still an elite point guard in the NBA, and he should be back to his normal playing ways next season. I think the hamstring injury slowed Parker down a bit in the finals, but I also give credit to the Heat's defense on him. The development of backup point guard Corey Joseph this season was a pleasant surprise, and that may be something the organization focuses more on in the off-season. Kawhi Leonard has developed into a solid go-to option for the Spurs as well. Leonard done exceptionally well guarding LeBron James in the finals, and hit some key shots for them at various points. The organization should look to involve him more next season.
Barring that the organization keeps the pieces they have now in place, I don't see any reason why they can't make another run next season. It's hard enough for any team to make it to the NBA Finals, and the Spurs missed a great opportunity this year that they will probably be kicking themselves in the butt for years to come. As I stated earlier, Miami was made for order for San Antonio. The Spurs just weren't able to close the deal. I'm far from a Miami Heat fan, but I offer my congratulations to them for a great series, and winning the title for the second straight season.