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NBA Finals Game 7: Five Key Storylines To Follow Tonight

Evan Budrovich |
June 20, 2013 | 4:00 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Tim Duncan is looking to turn back the clock one final time (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
Tim Duncan is looking to turn back the clock one final time (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
In a series where neither team has shown the ability to seal the deal, it all comes down to one final game. LeBron James vs. Tim Duncan, the Heat “Big Three” against the Spurs “Big Three", and South Beach vs. River Walk all come down to this.

Ther are plenty of major storylines for the final game of the NBA season, one featuring two teams that had their fair share of controversy when their respective “B” squads faced off in the regular season.

Game 7 will not be lacking any star power. It will feature the most balanced team in the league entering the King’s palace, where both teams can cement their legacies amongst the all-time greats. 

Hours from tipoff in South Beach, both teams come in injured, banged up and tired from a grueling series. Here are some key questions that will be answered in the game to decide the 2012-2013 NBA Champions. 

Can Dwyane Wade Rise to the Expectations?

Throughout the NBA Playoffs, we have seen a shell of the same man who propelled the Miami Heat to their first championship back in 2006. The biggest question surrounding Wade is the health of his left knee, one he says is “swollen and stiff”, but good enough so that Wade is confident that he will play

To quantify the struggles, Wade is averaging 15.5 points per game in the playoffs and has looked rather passive throughout the Heat’s run to their third consecutive finals. When you watch offensive possessions, sometimes Wade turns himself into a spectator, watching LeBron take over with precise passing and strong drives to the basket.

That being said, Wade has shown some flashes of brilliance, scoring 32 and 25 in Games 4 and 5, respectively. These games were so valuable that LeBron James jumped for joy, reaching the pinnacle of euphoria, as one of the Big Three came to play and showed why he took his talents to South Beach in the first place.  

What Wade has offered this series is a strong plus-minus rating, especially when LeBron is not on the court. In these brief moments near the end of quarters, the Heat are finding ways to close in large part thanks to Wade.

The Heat own a plus-four rating in these situations, while the opposite is true any time else. Therefore, the quick burst of the Miami offense and chance to be a difference maker in this winner-take-all game rests on the 31-year-old knees of D-Wade.

Can LeBron James dominate without the headband?

An overtime finish for the ages in Game 6 may go down as one of the best finishes in the modern era, yet King James will go down with befuddling stats.

During crunch time of Tuesday night's game, LeBron committed six turnovers. Before the infamous headband drop, and subsequent dismissal of the gear he has rocked since sophomore year of high school, LeBron was not taking over the contest the way we all come to expect.

These two need to give LeBron more than a little assistance tonight (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
These two need to give LeBron more than a little assistance tonight (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
Enter the fourth quarter - a big deficit, mounting pressure and less sweat resistance on his receding hairline-  and we were shown a determined finish. LeBron benefitted from faulty Spurs rebounding to sink a clutch three in the final seconds, capping his 14-point fourth quarter performance.

Although LeBron has been outstanding this postseason, many argue that his entire legacy, and the foreseeable future of the Big Three, rests on his shoulders. The Heat have placed all the pressure on those three, and now must keep their composure to put this one away.

For a team that won 27 straight in the regular season and promised titles approaching the Michael Jordan stratosphere, the King must deliver in the clutch. The rhetoric has been overplayed for years and set under the largest of microscopes, but now is the time. "Win or Go Home" will blossom tonight.

How much does Tim Duncan have left in the tank?

"Timmy D" took many's breath away with an awe-inspiring first half featuring 25 points while shooting 10-12 from the field, a blast from the past of a dominant early-2000s Duncan.

Duncan came out like his 2005 version, taking Chris Bosh to town the way David West and Roy Hibbert dominated the paint in the Eastern Conference Finals. Duncan moved with purpose, propelling the Spurs to a six-point lead at the half.

That being said, the man who finished the contest with a plus-16 rating slowed down in the second half. The Miami Heat started clogging the paint with bodies, most notably the foul-troubled Chris "Birdman" Andersen, in an attempt to combat father time against the Spurs' best player.

The biggest advantage the Spurs have held this series is on the glass, something the only true center on the court has helped propel. With Duncan in the middle, the Spurs have been able to dominate second-chance points, feeding shooters like the two-week wonder Danny Green with open shot after open shot.

As the four-time champion suits up for what could be his last hurrah in the finals, fatigue will be the last thing on Duncan’s mind. If the San Antonio Spurs want to raise their fifth banner in 15 years, all with Popovich at the helm, they will need Duncan's calming presence patrolling the paint on both ends of the floor.

If the Spurs can get a dominant performance from Duncan, they can limit the Heat fast break and push their fast tempo. It will be interesting to see how many minutes the starters will play from each team, and the 37-year-old Duncan's partipication will be the most crucial.

Will Danny Green take and make open shots?

Following a historic performance in the first five games, setting the NBA Finals for made three-point shots (21), the Miami Heat keyed in on Danny Green all night long on Tuesdat. The result, a 1-of-7 night made an 18 point per game scorer look like an afterthought that could never get comfortable on the offensive end.

LeBron's former Cavaliers teammate could shoot San Antonio to a title (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
LeBron's former Cavaliers teammate could shoot San Antonio to a title (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
Danny Green has been an inspirational story for the Spurs, and is now sitting right in the limelight for one of the greatest no-name performances in NBA Finals history. If Green wants to truly circle the wagons on a magical run, the Spurs will need his shooting to spread the floor against the sometimes over-pursuing Heat defense.

Passing, and lots of it, has propelled the Spurs attack throughout the series. But the San Antonio offense can seriously be cut off by stagnant isolation. Danny Green has provided the outside shooting all series long, and will called upon in the largest fashion tonight.

The Heat did an excellent job of contesting shots and rotating waves of bodies to attack the Spurs red-hot arsonists. The Spurs will counter with more back picks and high screens, similar to the final play of the game. At the end of the day, the man with 22 three-point makes in the series will need to demand the ball early and often. 

Rotations down the stretch will make or break the series finale?

The San Antonio Spurs were one rebound away from most likely securing the NBA Championship, and have now heard two days of debate over benching Tim Duncan in the game's final seconds.

The Spurs kicked off the oddball festivities by starting Manu Ginobli in Game 5, resulting in his best offensive game of the season to prompt a Spurs 10-point victory. The Miami Heat responded by placing LeBron on Tony Parker in the fourth quarter, a strategy that worked rather well in the game's most crucial moments.

Expect both teams to play small all night long, with starting lineups featuring Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James at the power forward roles. In the final moments, the Heat can either take out Mike Miller and bring in clutch shooter Ray Allen, or play a tad bigger and put Chris Bosh on Duncan.

The road team has seen their fare share of bumps in the road. Head Coach Gregg Popovich trusts his bench, but which players will come off it tonight is in flux.

Boris Diaw might garner more playing time following his tremendous effort on the defensive end of the court, slowing down LeBron for the first three quarters. Role players like Gary Neal and DeJuan Blair have shown production in spurts, but conventional wisdom says the pressure of Game 7 will stop them in their tracks. 

Final food for thought

In a series where neither team has been able to win two straight games, the winner of this contest wants to, in the words of the late Al Davis, “Just Win Baby”. Expect a great game tonight. It might not have the magic of Game 6, but it's sure to have plenty of emotional highs and lows along the way.

Reach Staff Writer Evan Budrovich here or follow him on Twitter.



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