Game 6 of the NBA Finals was an instant classic, and left basketball fans everywhere wanting to see more. Luckily for them, the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs will battle for the NBA Championship one final time in Game 7 Thursday night. The Spurs are up against a tough task, however, as no road team has won a Game 7 in the NBA Finals since 1979. Let’s take a look at some of the important storylines heading into Game 7.
LeBron James – Despite struggling in the final minutes of regulation, LeBron James played a phenomenal Game 6. He recorded his fourth career NBA Finals triple-double (second most in NBA History) while becoming the first player to record at least 30 points, 9 assists, and 9 rebounds in an NBA Finals game since Michael Jordan in 1997. LeBron needs to continue exactly what he’s doing, but the Heat need that same efficiency during the final minutes of the game. The Spurs defense is leaving LeBron space on the perimeter, and he has to be confident in pulling up for a mid-range jumper. LeBron James is clearly the best basketball player in this series, and he has to continue to dominate in order for the Miami Heat to have a chance to win Game 7.
Dwyane Wade – The bottom line is that Dwyane Wade has to be very productive in order for the Heat to take down the Spurs in Game 7. During last year’s championship run, Wade has seventeen 20+ point games. This year he has just three. In a huge Game 4 victory, we saw what D-Wade is truly capable of. The reason that LeBron came to Miami was to have a much better supporting cast than he had in Cleveland. In order to win a championship, that supporting cast has to step up in Game 7 and that begins with Dwyane Wade.
Tim Duncan – Tim Duncan was absolutely dominant during Game 6…in the first half. Tim Duncan has a phenomenal final stat line of 30 points and 17 rebounds, but 25 of those points came in the first half. Chris Bosh is not capable of defending Tim Duncan one-on-one in the post. So either Duncan is going to dominate the Heat on the block, or they are going to double him in the post and leave open shooters such as Danny Green and Gary Neal open beyond the arc. Duncan needs to continue his dominance in the low post and hopefully continue that throughout the second half of Game 7.
Manu Ginobli – In Game 5, Manu Ginobli became the first player since Marcus Camby in 1999 to start a game in the NBA Finals after not starting a game all season. In this Game 5, Ginobli had a season-high 24 points as well as 10 assists. Huge breakout game for Ginobli, so why not start him again in Game 6? This seemed like the right decision to make for Greg Popovich. In Game 6, Ginobli struggled greatly with just 9 points and 8 turnovers. The Spurs had just 13 turnovers all game and 8 of them came from the poor play of Ginobli. Ginobli has to play much better, and Popovich has to have a much shorter leash on him if the Spurs are going to have a chance to win Game 7.
Prediction – Heat will win in another thriller behind stellar player from LeBron James. I just can’t bet against LeBron here. Although Kawhi Leonard has done an excellent job defending him up to this point, I don’t think LeBron will allow anyone to stop him during Game 7. LeBron averages 31.5 points per game when facing elimination, the highest in such games in NBA History. In addition, I just don’t see how the Spurs can overcome such a demoralizing Game 6 loss. They were so close to the NBA championship and had it ripped away from them. Heat win 97-89.