SAN ANTONIO -- Long after the clock had struck zero, Tim Duncan draped an arm over Tony Parker's shoulder and pumped his fist at the crowd as they walked toward a tunnel. One win: That's all that separates the Spurs from their fifth championship in 14 years, from bookending one of the most successful runs in team sports history with another title. It wasn't easy, and it got a little too close for San Antonio's comfort at the end, but Sunday's 114-104 win pushed Miami to the brink of elimination. Here's how:
Starting Manu: Manu Ginobili had not started a single game all season for San Antonio until Sunday, when Gregg Popovich inserted the struggling Ginobili into the starting lineup, largely to counter the small unit Miami utilized in Game 4. Boy, did it work. After connecting on just 10 of his 29 shots in the first four games of the series, Ginobili came out firing, racking up seven points and four assists in the first quarter on his way to a 24-point night on 8-of-14 shooting. It was vintage Ginobili: Attacking, slashing, getting to the free-throw line (eight attempts), with the sold out crowd of 18,581 chanting his name.
"I needed it," Ginobili said. "I was having a tough time scoring and I needed to feel like the game was coming to me. I was able to attack the rim, get to the free-throw line and make a couple of shots."
The Danny Green show: Green--who it should be pointed out could have been picked up by every team in the league at some point--continues to make a case for Finals MVP, connecting on six of his ten three-point attempts (breaking an NBA record for three-pointers made in a Finals series in the process) while playing solid defense, particularly in transition, on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
"The whole season has made him more confident," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "He basically has a green light. When you do it for 82 games, the only thing left is to do it with the real lights on. He has pretty well answered that question."
What hamstring strain? Tony Parker scared more than a few people in San Antonio when he declared over the weekend that his strained hamstring "could tear any time," and that if this were the regular season, he would be on the shelf for ten days. But Parker hasn't skipped a beat, following up a 16-point, nine-assist effort in Game 4 with a 26-point, five-assist effort in Game 5. There are times when you can clearly see Parker isn't 100 percent. Coming out of timeouts, during dead-ball situations, or walking to the dais to do a postgame interview, Parker walks with a slight limp. But when the clock starts, he is the same Parker, diving into the lane, knocking down runners and creating open shots for his teammates.
Paging a Miami point guard: For the second straight game, the Heat got virtually nothing from Mario Chalmers (seven points, one assist, two turnovers) and Norris Cole (0/0/1). Tony Parker makes a lot of opposing point guards look bad, but Chalmers' and Cole's inability to contain Parker or make shots has made them a major liability, and forced Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to go with a big lineup more often than he would like. Chalmers, as we well know, is capable of a big night--he had 19 points in Game 3--and one of the two needs to step up for Miami to climb back into this series.