That realization didn’t have to wait for the final buzzer, either. Duncan’s actions showed that when he slapped the floor loudly on the defensive end of the court after missing that gigantic opportunity in close.
“That’s out of me just missing a bunny,” Duncan said when asked to explain his rare show of emotion and frustration. “I got by Shane and had a layup to tie the game. That’s just frustration.”
Remember, too, that the Spurs were within one stop or one rebound of clinching the title for themselves in Game 6 on Tuesday night before losing in overtime.
Credit Duncan for bringing his team together for one more push, for making the Heat sweat it out even on a night when James scored 37 points and Wade added 23.
“You’ve got a great team,” Spoelstra told Duncan as they crossed paths near the postgame interview room, and that’s true.
More specifically, the Spurs have been a great team for as long as Duncan’s been around, and no matter who has played alongside him. They’ve never won consecutive championships like Miami just did, but even now, past their prime, they gave the Heat what Spo called “the toughest series we’ve ever been in.”
Early in these NBA Finals, it was hot three-point shooting by San Antonio’s guards that made it so. In the end, in this bitter Game 7, the easy points stopped flowing so the Spurs took them one deadly drip at a time, making 20 of 22 free throws.
That’s the maddening patience of this San Antonio team, and the steely character. The last time they were in an NBA Finals Game 7, the result, an 81-74 victory over Detroit in 2005, put America to sleep, but it put another trophy in Duncan’s hands. That’s a trade San Antonio could live with, and gladly would have again here against Miami.
Asked if he’ll be back next season, Duncan said, “I have a contract that says I am.”
Let’s hope he does.
Everyone at AmericanAirlines Arena, including LeBron, the NBA Finals MVP, can still learn a lot from this guy.