MIAMI — Through heartbreaking losses and hair-raising victories, through Game 7s of the NBA Finals and Game 46s of the regular season, through contract extension after contract extension, what has defined these San Antonio Spurs more than anything else is the simple fact that they stick together.
Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich have been the heart, the soul, the backbone and the brains of this operation for more than a decade. Through an unprecedented era of change and volatility, these Spurs have stayed in San Antonio, stayed together.
Coming off the most gut-wrenching defeat they have ever suffered, that unity, that togetherness, that unparalleled bond is more important now than it ever has been.
A group that thought it had seen everything the NBA could throw at it was shaken to the core when it experienced something totally new — when the Spurs gave away a five-point lead with 21 seconds to play in Game 6 against the Miami Heat and missed the chance to secure the franchise’s fifth championship.
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“We’ve never been through a situation like this,” Ginobili said Wednesday. “In 10-plus years we’ve been through basically everything. But I was trying to think. Not like this. So hopefully we are up to the challenge. We know that we can play better, and we have to.”
Game 7 is Thursday night in Miami.
In an effort to keep the team together and not dwell on the opportunity that just slipped away, the Spurs went to dinner after Game 6 to share some stories and clear their heads.
“We’ll be ready to rock,” Duncan said.
James: headband coming back
During the Heat’s rally in the fourth quarter, LeBron James, who has played his entire career with a headband and has used it to further his brand, lost it when Duncan knocked it off his head after James dunked the ball.
James’ ability to play well without his headband — he scored 12 of his game-high 32 points without it — became a talking point during and after the game as bloggers and fans on social media began wondering: Doesn’t James have to start Game 7 without the headband?
James smiled and laughed when asked whether he would play Game 7 without his headband.
“I’ll probably start off with it, man,” he said. “A little superstitious.”
• The Heat’s wild win drew the second-largest audience for a Game 6 since ABC started televising the series in 2003. The game was watched by an average of 20.6 million viewers.
• Dwane Casey will remain Toronto Raptors coach, new general manager Masai Ujiri said. There had been questions regarding the future of the former Sonics assistant amid a front-office overhaul. The Raptors went 34-48 this season and missed the playoffs for the fifth year in a row.