Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals served us all with a reminder that Tim Duncan and LeBron James are two of the best players of the league has had to offer in recent seasons.
Truthfully, it should come as no surprise given their respective bodies of work, but the way they carried their teams in the sixth game of the title round was simply a joy to watch. Duncan and James couldn’t have had more different performances, and yet the impacts were just as devastating on the opposing teams.
Duncan was a beast throughout the majority of the contest with 30 points and 17 rebounds. His individual defense on Chris Bosh forced the left-handed big man to simply avoid shots during long stretches of the game.
Indeed, Bosh turned down multiple seemingly open looks from mid-range because of how well the San Antonio Spurs’ big man defended him. In addition, Duncan was a huge presence at the rim. His help defense clogged the lane and forced misses directly at the basket.
With Duncan on the floor, the Miami Heat scored 93 points per 100 possessions per NBA.com’s advanced stats tool, a figure that would easily have been dead last in the NBA over the course of the regular season.
With the title hanging in the balance, Duncan showed up with a throwback performance. The superstar played 44 minutes and essentially gave it his all. Duncan emptied his tank despite Gregg Popovich’s best efforts to stagger his minutes and rest him.
Indeed, the future Hall of Fame big man only sat for nine minutes in the contest, and yet that amount of time loomed quite large for both the Spurs and the Heat. During the time Duncan took a breather, Miami posted an offensive rating of 203.3.
For the sake of perspective, that figure annihilates the 2008 Redeem Team’s offensive rating of 127.5. It’s an incredibly small sample size, but the numbers demonstrate the impact of Duncan’s absence on both teams.
As spectacular as the two-time MVP was, there was a feeling that he would eventually wear down.
Through the first three quarters of the game, Duncan amassed 30 points and 14 rebounds. Mind you, in the fourth quarter and overtime, he collected three rebounds and missed all five of his field goal attempts.
San Antonio came within a mere half-minute of winning the title thanks in large part to Duncan’s superb performance. A miraculous set of events turned things into the Heat’s favor as they forced a Game 7.
The Heat staved off elimination because the best player in the world exhibited the gifts that earned him such lofty praise in the past few seasons. James started off slowly and collected 14 points, seven assists and six rebounds through the first three periods.
James got his teammates involved early and repeatedly fed his shooters for open looks. He paced himself throughout most of the contest given his immense responsibilities. Much like the entire 2012-13 regular season, Erik Spoelstra asked James to orchestrate the offense, bail out the team on a few offensive possessions and defend a host of talented players.
James spent a considerable amount of time on Parker and helped force him into a tough shooting night. Mind you, James missed 9-of-12 shots in the first three quarters of the game as Miami stared at a double-digit deficit entering the final period.
With the season hanging in the balance, the four-time league MVP gave it his all and expended all the energy he had been conserving in early parts of the contest. The Heat’s leading scorer went to the post, became the roll man in some pick-and-rolls and also attacked from the elbows.
James gave the Spurs a multitude of different looks by attacking from different parts of the floor regardless of the players defending him. He tortured Kawhi Leonard, Boris Diaw, Tony Parker and Duncan around the basket.
The former Finals MVP posted 18 points on 8-for-14 shooting in the final period of the game and the extra session. He concluded the night with an impressive stat line that spoke volumes about his play: 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.
James was not without flaws in the contest though. He had six turnovers on the night, with four of them coming in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Nonetheless, the players with multiple MVP awards in the contest came to play in the sixth game of the 2013 Finals. The Spurs and Heat treated the fans to a terrific contest that went down to the wire.
Regardless of the outcome of this series, one can only hope history is kind to both teams especially when reflecting back on Game 6. With a title on the line for the Spurs and the Heat’s season on the brink, their franchise players stepped up and gave us a beautiful exhibition of basketball.
At times, it’s easy to take for granted when players of legendary status perform at a high level. Make sure you don’t forget this one instance.
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