MIAMI: The San Antonio Spurs must erase the memory of their epic game-six collapse if they are to become the first team since 1978 to win a game seven of the NBA Finals on the road.
“It is very important we bounce back and we forget last night,” Spurs star guard Tony Parker said of Miami’s rally for a 103-100 overtime win over the Spurs to level the best-of-seven championship series at three wins each.
“We don’t get affected by big losses. I am not worried about our team bouncing back,” Parker said.
San Antonio was just seconds away from their fifth championship in game six on Tuesday when the Heat rallied from a five-point deficit to force the extra session then win it in overtime, forcing Thursday’s winner-take-all match up.
With victory almost certain for the Spurs, Heat fans started heading for the exits and arena workers began to ring the court with yellow tape to keep the crowd off the floor so the official celebration could begin.
“I don’t know what happened in the overtime and fourth,” San Antonio’s Tim Duncan said immediately following the game. “Just our shots weren’t there. It is a disappointing loss.”
Duncan said on Wednesday that the Spurs had a team meeting over dinner after game six to discuss what went wrong and how they were going to bounce back in game seven.
“It helped. It did,” Duncan said. “The other option is a bunch of us go back to our rooms and sit in our rooms and sit there by ourselves and beat yourself up.
“So it’s always good to be around teammates and kind of get some stuff out in the open. We did exactly that. We’ll be ready to rock.”
No NBA team has won a game seven on the road in the NBA Finals since the Washington Bullets, now the Washington Wizards, defeated the Seattle SuperSonics, now the Oklahoma City Thunder, in 1978.
Duncan came out swinging on Tuesday by scoring 25 points in the first half as he accounted for half of the Spurs’ 50 points at the break.
“I made some shots. Come fourth quarter I kind of lost it. I got lost in the mix. My goal for tomorrow is to sustain it,” Duncan said.
The Spurs weren’t able to do that in game six as the defending champion Heat showed they are a veteran team with significant playoff experience.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich chose to sit Duncan in the final seconds of regulation time when they had the lead but Duncan said on Wednesday that he wished he had been out there.
“I know we had 30 seconds left and we’re up five and you are just crossing your fingers and hoping something like what happened wouldn’t happen,” Duncan said. “But it did, and obviously there are a lot of emotions.
“But we re-grouped for overtime. We got a lead, we made plays and they just outplayed us.”