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Game 7 Journal

   by Larry Ness - 06/20/2013

NBA Playoff Journal (Game 7)

There a few things that can match the excitement of a Game 7 in MLB, the NHL or in the NBA. The Spurs and Heat will treat us to a Game 7 in this year’s NBA finals, as tip off is scheduled for just after 9:00 ET tonight from Miami, on ABC. No team has won back-to-back games in this series and going back to Game 1 of its East Finals matchup with the Pacers, Miami hasn’t been able to put together consecutive wins in 12 tries! Does this make the Spurs, who are six-point underdogs (total is 188), the favorite? There are more than a few reasons to think that they may be.

While much has been made of the fact that with Tuesday’s win in Game 6, the Heat haven’t lost consecutive games since January 8 and 10 (Miami has rebounded each time off a loss to go 13-0 SU and 12-1 ATS), some have likely overlooked the fact that the Spurs are a perfect 4-0 SU and ATS off a playoff loss here in the 2013 postseason. In fact, the Spurs have bounced back in impressive fashion following each loss, winning their next game by margins of 10 and 18 (against the Warriors) and by 36 and 10 vs the Heat. Doing the math, the Spurs have followed a postseason loss in 2013 by winning the next game by an average margin of 18.5 PPG. However, this is no “run of the mill” game, tonight. It’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

Check the history books and you’ll find that this is just the 18th Game 7 in NBA Finals history. The home team has won 14 of the previous 17 (82.4%), with only the 1969 Celtics (in LA vs the Lakers), the 1974 Celtics (in Milwaukee vs the Bucks) and the 1978 Bullets, now Wizards (in Seattle vs the Sonics, now Thunder). Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that although home teams have won 14 of 17, just three wins have come by double digits and three more by margins of seven-to-nine points. That means that EIGHT of the wins by the home teams have come by six or less. Adding those eight to the three outright wins by the visiting teams and that means that at plus-six, road teams were within the pointspread in 11 of the 17 previous Game 7s (64.7%).

Let me also add, that the Spurs are an impressive 7-3 SU and 8-2 ATS on the road this postseason. Meanwhile, the Heat may be 9-3 SU at home this postseason but they are a much less impressive 6-6 ATS. You may have read that going into Game 6, the Spurs were a hard-to-believe 14-2 (.875) SU in “close-out” games on the road since the 2002-03 season, while the rest of the NBA checked in at just 61-75 (.449). We all know the Spurs lost Game 6 to fall to 14-3 but San Antonio bettors sure cashed their tickets on the Spurs in that one.

Game 6’s dramatic ending leaves all wondering if the Spurs will be able to bounce back from “letting one get away” The Spurs led by 13 points in the late fourth quarter of that contest and took a 10-point lead into the fourth. San Antonio led 93-89 when Ginobili was fouled with 28.1 seconds left but he was only able to make 1-of-2 free throws. After an LBJ three-pointer (off an offensive rebound), Leonard was only able to convert 1-of-2 FTs with 19 seconds left, leaving the Heat down three, not four. Allen hit the game-tying three with five seconds left (following a Bosh offensive rebound, which could be the biggest of his career) and the Heat then ‘escaped’ 103-100 in OT.

It’s reasonable to think the Spurs will be devastated but Duncan, Ginobili and Parker have played in a combined 156 postseason games, building up a lot of "corporate knowledge," as Gregg Popovich likes to say. Duncan had 30 points (plus 17 rebounds) in Game 5, his highest total in a Finals game since Game 1 of the 2003 Finals, but he was scoreless in the 4th quarter and OT. Consider this. “Pop” surprised all by inserting Ginobili into the starting lineup in Game 5 and the guard trio of Ginobili, Green and Parker made 26-of-43 shots (60.5%), while combining for 74 points. In Game 6, that trio was a woeful 9-of-35 (25.7%) from the floor, combining for only 31 points. However, the Spurs still led 94-89 a with 28.1 seconds to go!

Heading into this game, I feel like John Travolta’s character from Welcome Back Kotter, Vinnie Barbarino, who so famously used to opine, “I’m so confused.” Going against the home team in a Game 7, is NOT something I relish doing. I’ve already mentioned that 14 of 17 home teams have won in NBA Finals history but let me add that there have been 111 previous Game 7s in all NBA playoff series and the home team is 90-21 SU, a winning percentage of .811. LBJ is the game’s best player and he rose to the challenge in Game 6, after a dreadful 3-of-12 shooting performance through the first three quarters.

James was 8-of-14 (14 points) in the 4th quarter and OT, willing his team to a win. I get the feeling that it’s “his time” and want no part of going against the Heat in this spot. Truth be told, I’m rooting for the Spurs, as I’d love to see Duncan and “Pop” get their fifth titles, while Ginobili and Parker would check in with four championships. The refrain says, “know when to hold’em and know when to fold’em.” I’m ‘folding,’ after a MONEY-MAKING 26-14 (65%) run with NBA 10*s going back to April 8, including 7-2 since. May 28).

Enjoy the game and I’ll return with a postseason postscript, over the weekend.

Good luck...Larry

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