Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals was an instant classic. The best part about it is that NBA fans get one more game to enjoy between two teams that are clearly the best in the world right now.
But who comes out on top?
There's two ways to look at Game 6. Either the Spurs choked away a title, or the Heat simply clicked at the right time and played with desperation and a surprisingly helpful home crowd. Yes, LeBron James came alive in the 4th quarter, but he was hardly the most important player in the game.
It wasn't Ray Allen, of the game-tying three, either. It certainly wasn't Chris Bosh, whose block may have prevented him being traded this offseason. It wasn't Mike Miller, of the one-shoe three-pointer. And it wasn't Dwyane Wade, who spent time in the locker room and the bench with various injuries.
No, it was actually Mario Chalmers, whose scoring kept the Heat in the game in the first half while the Spurs' Tim Duncan went absolutely buckwild. And when Duncan disappeared late in the game, it was an open window for LeBron to come back and claim glory.
But the problem for the Miami Heat is that they may not be able to count on another huge performance from Chalmers. The Spurs have been glad to allow James to get his points, and have committed to shutting down Miami's shooters instead. Ray Allen went off in a Game 5 loss, but his scoring came in bunches once the game was pretty much out of hand. Hardly anyone contributed for the Heat in an ugly Game 3 loss, and that goes double for the loss in Game 1. The Heat have won games this series when they've gotten big performances from three players minimum, and they'll need some combination of Wade, Allen, Bosh, or Chalmers to help out LeBron Thursday night or else they will have to watch San Antonio celebrate in South Beach.
As for the Spurs - well, they really had this one in the bag, and will need to be mentally tough to get up for a deciding Game 7. It's unlikely Duncan will score 27 points in the first half again, and Tony Parker must be running out of circus shots at this point. But the Spurs have an advantage over Miami, which is that they can create shots via the playmaking of Parker, the inside game of Duncan, and the deadly shooting of about 6 different guys that have gone bonkers at points, including Danny Green and Gary Neal. A fast start from San Antonio may be the punch in the mouth that makes Miami finally lay down.
It's been six games of huge scoring runs, and whichever team closes hottest will undoubtedly prevail. But the Spurs had Game 6 in hand after a huge closeout to the first half, and only lost the game thanks to taking the foot off the gas and some incredibly lucky bounces for Miami. If they start the 3rd quarter with a sizable lead, it's unlikely that LeBron will have multiple chances to hit threes, or that Ray Allen will just happen to get a rebound his way with the game on the line. San Antonio has been the better team about 75% of the time this series, and the smart money is on them pulling it out.
But Miami still has LeBron James. And if LeBron's headband is gone and his game shows up, no one in the world has a chance against him. He's got a 40-point explosion in him, and if he has the killer instinct from the opening tip, there's no one who can affect a game like LeBron. He's had huge blocks, rebounds, and assists this series, and if he can couple that with a strong shooting performance, he gets to hoist another trophy.
My pick? I say San Antonio runs away at some point, and it's up to LeBron to drag his team back.