Game 7 Winners
June 20, 2013
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NBA Finals Game 7 Free Pick – Everything You Need To Know
The ongoing war between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat has been an outright display of everything we hoped would happen, so making an NBA Finals Game 7 free pick is no easy task. We’ve bookended four consecutive blow outs with two tightly fought wins for each team. In every aspect of this series, everything is tied. Who has what it takes to get to the top of this glorious mountain?
It’s impossible for me to write this preview without having perspective on the Miami Heat. This team has been to the finals in three straight years, so that in itself is a triumph, especially given the climate of the hyper competitive, modern NBA landscape. Their opponents during the championship rounds have been different. They faced an underdog Dallas Mavericks team as they learned not to take things for granted. Last year, they weathered the storm against an up-and-coming team in Oklahoma City that should be competitive for years to come as long as they don’t make any boneheaded trades involving James Harden (whoops).
There’s no question that the Miami Heat have hit their apex this season, which makes it fitting that they’re clashing with the grizzled, decorated, champion San Antonio Spurs. Still, a 27 game winning streak is the stuff legends are made of, and LeBron collected his fourth MVP as Wade fulfilled his destiny on this team as a rightful second banana. For all the scrutiny that Bosh has faced, he was great this year as a big man who could run the floor with his super friends.
In the playoffs, one particular wheel fell off the bus. Wade’s knee injury has slowed the Heat down tremendously, and that’s affected their game plan. They can no longer barrel down the court relentlessly pushing transition because Wade can’t keep up. If there was any wing player with legs on this team – a rookie or some wayward talent they developed – this type of attack would still work. The reason that people are leaning towards the Spurs in NBA Finals Game 7 free picks is because the Heat can not always play at the tempo they want to.
The truth is that if Wade can play the way he normally does, these playoffs unravel completely differently. Indiana’s Roy Hibbert and San Antonio’s Tim Duncan are mired in foul trouble while trying to offer help defense against Wade and LeBron and the last rounds of the playoffs are over and done with. But Wade’s injury changed all that. All teams can be affected by injuries, and even the bone bruise that has been plaguing Wade is enough to create a window of opportunity for the surprisingly healthy Spurs.
The notion that Wade’s knee won’t “hold him back” in the playoffs ignores the truth about the human body. We measure wear and tear on NBA players in terms of mileage. In that case, Wade has the mileage of a Ford F-150 that’s been used to pull cruise ships across the country off-road for a decade. He’s that banged up. His body won’t respond to treatment like it used to, and no amount of drugs in this world will keep his knee from swelling up. He risks serious, permanent damage to his knee if he goes all out. Just because he has the “summer off after Thursday”, that doesn’t mean Wade is going to play full tilt. He has only done so in spurts throughout the playoffs. It is a matter of will, just as much as it is a matter of mechanics.
Any overly optimistic hopes about Wade are somewhat derailed by Manu Ginobili, who can just as well turn back the clock like he did in a throwback performance during Game 5 right after I chastised him for being terrible. Let’s just say that Wade’s knee has as much chance of allowing him to play at a high level as Manu does despite his age. Great players step up in great moments. Period.
Tony Parker is one of those players, and he had to be stopped somehow because Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole were getting blown to bits by his quickness. The only guy who made sense was LeBron James, and since that shift came late in Game 6, the Spurs could not find the mismatch even though it was somewhere on the floor. If LeBron defends Parker throughout Game 7, Parker will still be able to create opportunities. He won’t be as effective with LeBron defending him, but he’s certainly not going to play scared.
Keep in mind that Miami shot 57.9% from three, including two hail mary’s at the end of Game 6 to stay alive in this series. By comparison, the Spurs shot a horrific 27.8% from long range winch is their worst statistical effort in that category during this series. If you’re taking NBA Finals Game 7 free picks that leverage the Spurs based solely on Game 6 repeating itself with San Antonio improving from the arc, you’re on the right track.
Danny Green and Gary Neal combined for a lowly 8 points on Tuesday night and that’s not going to cut it. Statistically and figuratively speaking, the Spurs have a greater chance of improving their three point shooting than Miami has of playing at their high octane pace. Even if they improve their three point shooting by a smidgen, they create a gap in the score that Miami will have trouble closing, especially with the way San Antonio plays defense.
Throw the big boy stuff out the window because it’s a wash. LeBron, Duncan, Parker and Bosh will all come to play. The Heat will feed off the intensity of their fearless leader the same way the Spurs will keep faith in their crisp passing and systematic execution. San Antonio failed to properly finish well-executed plays down the stretch in Game 6, but if their three-point scoring was even slightly better it wouldn’t have mattered. On Tuesday night they went 5-of-18. Two or three big time shots would have made a huge impact at any time during the game.
The major questions are Wade and Manu. At least it seems that way. The Heat can not win this game unless Wade has a prototypical game. The difference with the Spurs is that they can still stay completely competitive regardless of Manu’s actual contributions because he flows so well within their system. If he can produce, it’s even better.
Before I make my NBA Finals Game 7 free pick, let me revisit the rhetoric around this game. The Spurs have nothing to play for in all honesty. They are still champions, one of the best teams of the modern era and have played together for over ten years. All the pressure is on Miami playing in front of their terrible fans, trying to do what they promised by bringing in the second of “not one…not two…not three…” titles.
LeBron has shriveled in this moment before. It’s hard to qualify anything he does as “lucky” but that three he hit to put the Heat within reach during the final seconds of the fourth quarter was freaking lucky. That moment will be played ad nauseum in his ascension highlight reels for years to come if they win Game 7. You know what won’t be played? The brick he threw up right before it!
The Spurs do not cower from big games. If anything, they know how to close out a grueling series with the championship on the line. Everything that needs to happen right for the Heat centers around LeBron and his willingness to embrace the challenge of this moment. If he feels it slipping away, there is literally no help for him. He needs to be at his best to create momentum for his teammates. Without him, nothing happens for Miami.
When LeBron went in to hero mode on Tuesady, San Antonio’s defense was crippled to a certain degree because they had done such a great job of stymieing him by using Boris Diaw (what?!) defensively. They won’t fall for the hero mode again. You can count on Popovich in that regard.
LeBron can facilitate a great game from his team, but he can’t beat the Spurs all by himself. If it was going to happen, it would’ve happened already and it hasn’t. He constantly relies on kick-outs to his teammates who have and haven’t hit important shots. The Spurs will see LeBron coming, challenge him with a mixture of Leonard, Parker, Duncan or Splitter and remain committed to covering the perimeter shooters for the Heat. If that happens, LeBron is in for a long and brutal night of physical play.
The Spurs are an entirely different story. You can count on Parker. Duncan has been unbelievable in this series. Danny Green was terrible in Game 6, but he has not repeated bad shooting nights twice in a row in this series. In other words the Spurs have options.
Miami built a team based on two player who are unstoppable together and a big man that can keep up with them. To get that, they sacrificed almost all of their reliable depth. The Spurs went another direction by building intelligently around three marquee stars and ensuring that the role players had specific duties other than “shoot the ball and make the shot because LeBron’s double teamed and you’re wide open”.
In the modern NBA, you need a Big Three but you also need an ensemble around that core that can push them over the hump. I have more faith in guys like Neal, Leonard, Splitter and Green than I do in washed up talents like Miller, Allen and Battier along with erratic dysfunctions like Chalmers.
I’m not saying that orchestrating LeBron and Bosh’s arrival in Miami is backfiring in Miami’s face because they’ve still done what should be impossible by advancing to the Finals handedly three years in a row. But if you’re asking me to side with a team in this game, all of my instincts, intellect and emotions are pointing me towards San Antonio.
We shall see, Thursday night. Now you’re fully aware of the dialogue and narrative surrounding this game. So what are you going to do about it?
NBA Finals Game 7 Free Pick – San Antonio +6.0 (OVER)
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