Last year's collapse this year's motivation for Spurs in NBA Finals
SAN ANTONIO - As much as the Spurs have put the dizzying and deflating 29 seconds of last year's gut-wrenching Game 6 of the NBA Finals behind them, it is a driving force that has them on the brink of a title.
What happened in that game, and the emotions the Spurs felt after being unable to capture a championship that appeared right in their hands, will be the inspiration for San Antonio to close out Miami this time.
"We just have to think about last year," Tony Parker said. "We don't need more motivation than that."
After back-to-back blowout wins over the two-time defending champion Heat in Miami, the Spurs lead the series 3-1. Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich can hoist the championship trophy for the fifth time with a win here in Game 5 on Sunday night.
Thirty-one teams in NBA Finals history have tried to erase a 3-1 deficit and win a series. All 31 have failed.
LeBron James and the Heat are thinking about making history. The Spurs are thinking about making sure what happened last year doesn't happen again.
Said Duncan, "It will definitely come up."
The Spurs led that series 3-2, and no matter how you look at it, it was a monumental collapse. They led by 13 late in the third quarter in Game 6 in Miami and were up four with the ball with less than 30 seconds to play. Then the NBA's best-executing team completely unraveled.
Manu Ginobili missed a free throw with 28.2 seconds left with a chance to make it a six-point lead. Kawhi Leonard missed a foul shot with 19.4 seconds to go when he could have made it a four-point game.
Then James missed a three-pointer, Chris Bosh got the offensive rebound and passed it to Ray Allen for a tying three-pointer with five seconds left after the yellow security ropes were being set up in preparation for the trophy presentation.
The Spurs lost in overtime, then lost Game 7, and have been living with the pain of not being able to slam the door.
"We know the caliber of team they are and we have a lot of respect for what they're able to do," Duncan said. "They're able to throw it into another gear and they're going to do just that."
The Heat will have to dig deep and give James more help than he has received in this series. The Spurs' three wins have been by a total of 55 points; the Heat won Game 2 by two, with James scoring 35 points.
Sure, the series might have been different if James, who cramped up, had been able to finish Game 1 after the air conditioning stopped working in San Antonio's AT&T Center. But the way the Spurs dominated the last two games, they have shown they're a deeper, more balanced and better-executing team.
Sometimes the best team is better than the best player. "I do know the numbers," James said. "It's never been done before. But we're still a confident bunch even though our heads are lowered down right now."
Not as low as the Spurs' heads were a year ago, and they seem to be on a mission to not let that happen again.