Heat hang on, beat Spurs in OT to force Game 7

Heat hang on, beat Spurs in OT to force Game 7
June 18, 2013, 11:30 pm
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MIAMI — Before our very eyes, the Miami Heat's season was melting away.

The San Antonio Spurs were getting a vintage game from Tim Duncan.

Role players such as Kawhi Leonard and Boris Diaw were coming up with big shots.

Still, when it comes to big shots, few have done it as often or for as long as Ray Allen has.

And the former Celtic was true to form for the Miami Heat as he came through with the biggest shot of the game - a 3-pointer - that tied the game and forced overtime.

In overtime, it was Allen's defense - yes, defense - on a Manu Ginobili missed drive to the basket that led to a pair of free throws by LeBron James that sealed a 103-100 Miami victory.

And just like that, the Larry O'Brien Trophy that for most of the game seemed San Antonio-bound, will have to wait until after Thursday's Game 7 to see if it will indeed have a new address.

Allen's late-game heroics were part of a manic fourth quarter surge by the Heat after what had been three quarters of play that for the most part, was dominated by the Spurs who led 75-65 going into the fourth quarter.

Miami had one last chance, one last quarter to save their season, keep it alive for another day.

Plenty of players elevated their play in the fourth quarter and overtime, but none more than four-time league MVP LeBron James.

After a lackluster performance through the first three quarters, James began to dominate the action in only the way James can - all phases of play.

 It was James coming up with end-to-end plays - a block on a Tim Duncan lay-up attempt followed by a driving layup of his own - to make it an 82-all game.

Miami took its first lead of the second half when Allen scored on an up-and-under, reverse lay-up that put the Heat back on top, 84-82, with 6:03 to play.

The Spurs would not go away quietly, and eventually regained the lead in the closing seconds of regulation.

Closing out the game in the fourth quarter and in overtime was indicative of how Miami closed out the first quarter.

After trailing most of the first, the Heat took a 27-25 lead after scoring eight of the quarter's last nine points.
Mario Chalmers, criticized heavily following the Heat's Game 5 loss in his inability to defend Tony Parker, was on the attack in Game 6.

Chalmers' best defense against Parker seemed to be a much-improved offense, as he led all Heat scorers in the first half with 14 points. He would finish with 20.

The Heat played well in stretches in the second quarter, and led by as many as seven in the quarter.

But San Antonio didn't get this far without knowing a thing or two about resilience.

San Antonio's first half was a quiet, but effective string of plays at both ends of the floor - the kind of play that has defined the career of  Duncan.

So it was only fitting that it was Duncan leading the charge which included one stretch in which he scored 13 consecutive points. He led all Spurs with 30 points and 17 rebounds.

Duncan was an instrumental part of an 11-0 run by the Spurs in the second quarter that propelled them to a 50-44 lead.

He had 25 points at the half in part because of Miami's refusal to double-team him as they had done frequently in the first five games.

The reason?

San Antonio's long-range snipers had been ripping the Heat's perimeter defense to pieces all series.

Danny Green and Gary Neal were just a combined 2-for-5 shooting in the first half, but it didn't matter.

Their presence and threat level forced the Heat to leave Duncan one-on-one with no one standing between him and lay-ups but Chris Bosh, Shane Battier and at times, Chris Andersen.

Duncan made them pay, making his first eight shots of the night.

And when he missed his first shot, the Spurs got the offensive rebound and eventually got a score from - who else? - Duncan.

In addition to having trouble defending Duncan, Bosh was just 3-for-8 shooting. His Big Three cohorts, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, weren't much better, either. They were a combined 6-for-16 shooting with 15 combined points.

After a strong finish to the first half, the Spurs continued to assert control of the game in the third quarter.

Miami's Mike Miller had a driving layup that cut San Antonio's lead to 57-56.

From there, the Spurs sprinted ahead courtesy of an 11-0 run and spent the bulk of the third quarter playing with a double-digit lead.

All the things that had catapulted the Spurs to success earlier in The Finals - taking away Miami's driving lanes, contesting shots around the basket and forcing them into a game of pick-your-poison with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Danny Green - was working.

But in the end, Miami did what all great teams do - find a way to win.

And as much as the Heat's Big Three garner the headlines and attention, often these games are decided by role players.

In Game 6, that difference-making role player was Allen, whose nine points are easily overlooked if you didn't know when they came - or what they meant to the game's eventual outcome.

And while Allen has no shot at coming away from The Finals as its MVP, without question a back-to-back title for the Heat would not be possible without his performance on Tuesday night, the kind of performance that reminds us all why he's one of the best long-range shooters to ever play the game.