Claremore Daily Progress

Sports

June 20, 2013

NBA FINALS: Spurs rely on togetherness to overcome collapse

MIAMI — Through heartbreaking losses and hair-raising victories, through Game 7s of the NBA Finals and Game 46s of the regular season, through contract extension after contract extension, what has defined these San Antonio Spurs more than anything else is the simple fact that they stick together.

Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich have been the heart, the soul, the backbone and the brains of this operation for more than a decade. Through an unprecedented era of change and volatility, these Spurs have stayed in San Antonio, stayed together.

Coming off the most gut-wrenching defeat they have ever suffered, that unity, that togetherness, that unparalleled bond is more important now than it ever has been.

A group that thought it had seen everything the NBA could throw at it was shaken to the core when it experienced something totally new - when the Spurs gave away a five-point lead with 21 seconds to play in Game 6 against the Miami Heat and missed the chance to secure the franchise's fifth championship.

"We've never been through a situation like this,'' Ginobili said on Wednesday. "In 10-plus years we've been through basically everything. But I was trying to think. Not like this. So hopefully we are up to the challenge. We know that we can play better, and we have to.''

Game 7 is Thursday night in Miami, only because the end of Game 6 went so horribly wrong for San Antonio.

The Spurs were up 13 points early in the fourth quarter and led 94-89 with 21 seconds to go. This team that had closed out so many of these games over the years with its cold-blooded precision was ready for perhaps its crowning achievement - dethroning LeBron James and the defending champion Heat on their home floor, no less.

The NBA was raising the yellow ropes around the court, wheeling the Larry O'Brien trophy toward the mouth of the arena and preparing the postgame celebration that was moments away.

Then James hit a 3-pointer, Kawhi Leonard missed a free throw, and Ray Allen drilled another 3 to force overtime. The Heat held on to win it and force a Game 7, and a team that has always prided itself on not letting the emotions of the moment overwhelm them looked totally defeated, totally devastated.

"Still down,'' Ginobili said a day later. "After a blow like that, it's not easy to get back up.

"But after 12 hours now, I feel a little better knowing that we have another chance, that we can do so many things better. And that we are in a Game 7 of the NBA Finals. There's not much more than that. We are still in a great situation. We are where we wanted to be at the beginning of the season, still.''

In an effort to keep the team together and not dwell on the opportunity that just slipped away, the Spurs went to dinner - together, of course - after Game 6 to share some stories and clear their heads.

"It helped,'' Duncan said. "It did. 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.''

This is not the first difficult defeat the Spurs have ever had. There was Derek Fisher's prayer of a shot with 0.4 seconds on the clock in Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference semifinals. There was Ginobili's foul on Dirk Nowitzki late in Game 7 of the 2006 Western Conference semifinals that allowed the Mavericks to force overtime and eventually beat the Spurs. And there was a home loss against the Detroit Pistons in Game 6 of the 2005 NBA Finals that pushed the series to seven.

But the Spurs have never been this close to having their hands on the trophy and failed to close it out. These robotic Spurs finally let their guard down last night, showing the raw disappointment that comes with such a defeat. Ginobili, who turned the ball over eight times and couldn't convert a layup in the closing moments of overtime, took it particularly hard.

"A competitor feels it deeply, and really, really tough loss in that regard,'' Popovich said. "I expect Manu to feel like that after the game. But he'll be fine.''

Ginobili will turn 36 in July and is in the final year of his contract. Duncan is 37 and Popovich is 64. Once again, everyone is wondering how much longer these Spurs can stick together.

Right now, the only thing that matters is that they can do it for one more game.

"We are close. We've been through a lot of stuff,'' Ginobili said. "Not like this, but we believe in the challenge. We think that it can make it even sweeter.

"And besides, there's no other option.''

As Ginobili said after Game 6, there is no Game 8.

"I think everybody wants to be ready for (Thursday),'' Parker said. "Because if you're not ready for tomorrow, you're going to regret it for the next 10, 15 years.''

 

1
Text Only
Sports
  • DSC_0111web.jpg ‘Team behind the Team’

    For the second-straight year, the Claremore Zebra student training staff will be represented in the Oklahoma Coaches All-State games held in Tulsa.
    Meranda Golbek and Sarah Szcinski, a pair of 2014 Claremore High School graduates, earned All-State honors for their athletic training careers and will join two other student trainers from Jenks and Stillwater High School on the East squad.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • FISHFRYweb.jpg Claremore QB Club holds Fish Fry Aug. 2

    The Claremore Zebra Quarterback Club will hold its annual Fish Fry fundraiser on Aug. 2 at the Claremore High School cafeteria.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • MLB: Rangers struggle in 9-3 loss to A's

    A rough month didn't get any better for Texas on Sunday night, even though the game-time temperature of 100 degrees would have seemed to be in the Rangers' favor against Oakland.

    However, they trailed 5-0 in the second inning en route to a 9-3 loss to the Athletics. Texas has lost 15 of its last 18 and dropped to 4-19 in July.

    July 28, 2014

  • Lost Red Sox title ring returned by Yankees fan

    A lost Red Sox World Series ring is back on the finger of its owner, thanks to a nifty pickup by an ardent New York Yankees fan.

    Manhattan restaurant owner Luigi Militello could hardly believe it when he found the shiny 2013 championship ring on a restroom sink at his Luke's Bar and Grill on Thursday night.

    July 28, 2014

  • MLB: First-place Dodgers complete sweep of Giants

    Manager Don Mattingly hardly considers a late-July sweep in San Francisco a turning point to put his Dodgers in the driver's seat atop the NL West.

    Yet coming off consecutive series losses at St. Louis and Pittsburgh, Los Angeles needed some sort of spark as August approaches. The Dodgers found it in the ballpark of their biggest rival, and left the Bay Area in first place following an emphatic three-game swing.

    Carl Crawford hit an RBI triple to back Hyun-Jin Ryu's third straight victory, and division-leading Los Angeles beat the Giants 4-3 Sunday night to establish some momentum behind their pitching and offense.

    July 28, 2014

  • NBA: Lakers set on hiring Byron Scott for new coach

    The Los Angeles Lakers have waited nearly three months to hire a new coach, and they're apparently making Byron Scott wait a few more days.

    Scott said this weekend that he has been hired by the Lakers, but the club insisted Sunday that no deal has been reached.

    July 28, 2014

  • NASCAR: Jeff Gordon claims fifth Brickyard 400 title

    With a tinge of gray hair at his temples, his hat on backward and his two young children by his side, Jeff Gordon celebrated as if he was 23 years old again.

    Gordon won a NASCAR-record fifth Brickyard 400 on Sunday, eight days before his 43rd birthday and on the weekend Indianapolis Motor Speedway celebrated the 20th anniversary of his first Brickyard victory.

    July 28, 2014

  • MLB: Thomas, Torre highlight HOF class

    Frank Thomas choked back tears, Joe Torre apologized for leaving people out of his speech and Tony La Russa said he felt uneasy.

    Being enshrined in the Hall of Fame can have those effects, even on the greats.

    Thomas, pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, and managers Bobby Cox, Torre and La Russa were inducted into the baseball shrine Sunday, and all paid special tribute to their families before an adoring crowd of nearly 50,000.

    July 28, 2014

  • Blackmon a 'big deal' for the wrong reasons

    The sports world is littered with gifted athletes whose self-destructive tendencies derailed what should have been promising careers. Ex-Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon appears to be on that well-worn path with his latest arrest.

    July 27, 2014

  • BASEBALL: Three Rivers Bandits notch 8th-straight win

    The Three Rivers Bandits seem to be getting hot when they need to be, heading into next week’s state tournament.

    The Bartlesville Indians were victims of the heat as the Bandits swept a doubleheader from them, 2-0 and then 9-2, on Saturday at Connors State College for their eighth straight win.

    July 27, 2014