Satisfied but shaken, Spurs bring NBA Finals home
By Brian Mahoney, AP Basketball Writer —
SAN ANTONIO — Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili sat in mostly stunned silence, all that playoff experience not preparing them for how they felt after two games.
They were satisfied, yet shaken.
The San Antonio Spurs had taken home-court advantage away from the Miami Heat, but then the reigning champions took them apart.
So as they prepared to bring the NBA Finals back home for the first time in seven years, the veterans struggled with how they were supposed to sum up their situation.
Getting one in South Florida was an accomplishment, but nothing that provided them any momentum after the Heat’s 103-84 victory Sunday in Game 2.
“Not after tonight. I think they regained that,” Duncan said. “Obviously we were glad to win a game here in Game 1. Our goal was to get two. But they got the one tonight. We get to go back home. We got a game here. We have three at home, so we’re excited about that. But if we play like we did tonight, that’s not going to matter.”
The teams took Monday off, with the series resuming Tuesday night. The Spurs will also host Game 4 on Thursday and Game 5 on Sunday.
The finals were once as much a part of June as the heat in this city deep in the heart of Texas. San Antonio won four titles in a nine-year span starting in 1999, but hasn’t hosted a game in the NBA’s championship round since the Spurs took a 2-0 lead over LeBron James and Cleveland in 2007.
Here comes James again, needing to win one here — which hasn’t been easy for Miami — and not concerned that the finals’ 2-3-2 format now gives the advantage to the Spurs.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “Two best teams in the NBA at this point. Both teams have won and can win on each other’s floor. So it’s not a biggie.”
The Heat are just 3-22 in San Antonio, though they did win this year even while James, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers sat out the late-season meeting.
James had no cause for concern after Game 2, which validated his belief that he can depend on his teammates until he gets rolling, as he did late in the third quarter and well into the fourth.
But a little doubt seemed to creep into the Spurs’ Big Three, unusual for a group that has been there, done that.
Duncan, Parker and Ginobili have teamed for 99 postseason victories together, second-most in NBA history, a trio that is well aware of how quickly things can change in the playoffs.
They changed really quickly in this series, about the time it took James to turn Tiago Splitter’s dunk attempt into a forever finals highlight with a blocked shot.
“Of course if you look at the result, being 1-1, it’s not bad. But you don’t want to play like this in an NBA Finals,” Ginobili said. “You don’t want to give them that much confidence, and you feeling bad about yourself.”
Duncan was admittedly awful in Game 2, shooting 3 of 13 for nine points. Parker offset his five baskets in 14 attempts with five turnovers, and Ginobili had three of the Spurs’ 17 turnovers that led to 19 points.
The Spurs, like every other team in the NBA, know that there’s no way to beat the Heat with that kind of ball handling.
“We have to play better. Definitely have to play better,” Parker said. “You know, we’re playing the defending champs. They’re a great team. We knew they were going to come in and play with a lot more energy and play harder. That’s what they did tonight.
“So it’s always easy to bounce back after a loss, and now it’s our turn to see how we’re going to handle our loss and how we’re going to respond.”
Big Three against Big Three provided plenty of buildup to the series, and Ginobili said the Spurs stand little chance of winning if their trio plays poorly.
But James, having seen the Heat not have enough when they were largely just he, Wade and Chris Bosh two years ago, insists his current team is deep enough to do big damage even when it doesn’t come from the big names.
“I think the supporting cast is really why both teams are here,” James said. “They’ve been making an impact all year long, and they feel like their supporting cast is better. We feel like our supporting cast is better. It’s who goes out and do it each and every night to help seal wins.”
The Spurs are shooting just 41 percent and averaging 88 points in the series, perhaps lucky to not be down 2-0. Duncan, the three-time NBA Finals MVP who always seemed to be more reliable the later in the season it was, has made only 11-of-32 shots.
“Obviously, they’re contested shots, but they’re the shots I feel I can make. So whether it be them or me or whatever it may be, I’m going to get back in the gym tomorrow and hopefully come out with a better stroke,” he said. “But I’m getting the shots I want. I just have to knock them down.”