It's difficult to imagine a shot with a higher degree of difficulty than the game-sealing jumper Spurs guard Tony Parker hit to deliver a 92-88 victory over the Heat in Game 1 of the Finals on Thursday.
On the road? Game-deciding time/score situation? Check. Lose control of the ball? Check. Get trapped in the corner? Check. Fall down, nearly all the way to the court? Check. Get swarmed by All-Defensive First Teamer LeBron James? Check. Shot clock ticking below a second? Check. Double-clutch to create space? Check. Bank it in? Check. Roll it around the rim for good measure? Check. Check. Check.
Parker did all of that and more to put San Antonio over the top in a back-and-forth Game 1.
"It was a crazy play," he said. "I thought I lost the ball three or four times. And it didn't work out like I wanted it to. At the end I was just trying to get a shot up. It felt good when it left my hand. I was happy it went in."
The basket gave Parker 21 points on the night, 10 of which came in a fourth quarter that saw the Spurs outscore the Heat 23-16.
"We were very fortunate," Popovich said. "It looked like he lost it two or three times, but he stuck with it. He kept competing. He gained control of it again. He got it up there on the rim. Great effort by Tony, and as I said, we were fortunate."
Tim Duncan added: "Tony makes an unbelievable play. He does just about everything in the book that he had. He fell to the ground, pump-faked, stepped through and still got it off the ground. It was just amazing."
The sequence unfolded with five seconds left on the shot clock, as Parker attempted to drive past Chris Bosh on the perimeter. Bosh guided him into help defense from James on the right baseline, causing the Frenchman to reverse course back toward the three-point line. James then hounded him in the corner, and Parker slipped as he tried to dribble back left toward the middle of the court, his left leg giving way and contorting as he slipped to the ground. Never hesitating, Parker kept his dribble alive, reverse-pivoted, double-clutched and banked in a mid-range jumper a split-second before the shot clock expired.
"Tony did everything wrong and did everything right in the same possession," James said. "He stumbled two or three times, he fell over... he got up and went under my arm. I got a great contest and he even double-pumped and barely got it off. That was the longest 24 seconds that I've been a part of."
The basket was reviewed and the officials determined that Parker did get off the attempt before the shot clock expired.
"That seemed like a 26-second possession," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra lamented. "But we played it all the way through. That's probably what this series is about, it's going to go down to the last tenth of a second. Every single play you have to push all the way through to the end and we didn't."
The Heat did not score on the ensuing possession, and the Spurs hung on for the win.
Parker also finished with six assists to help San Antonio overcome a triple-double from James, who tallied 18 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists.
Game 2 is set for Miami on Sunday night.
Miami entered the Finals as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference with a league-best 66 wins. San Antonio entered as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference after winning 58 games.