Setting the tone (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday June 13, 2007 1:43AM; Updated: Wednesday June 13, 2007 6:20PM
"I was definitely going to get it back from Andy,'' said James, who didn't want anyone to think that he had purposefully yielded control of the last seconds. "But Andy made a good move. He just over-shot it. I definitely wanted to try to get a good look at it or give my teammate a better look at it, but it was just miscommunication.''
And so the Cavaliers ceded their best chance at winning a Finals game on a night when Ginobili went 0 for 7 from the floor (and scored all three of his points in the final clinching 10.4 seconds from the line), when Duncan went 6 of 17 for his 14 points, when they needed Parker to nail a rare three with a minute to go to seize the crucial 72-67 advantage.
"He's not really a three-point shooter,'' said Duncan with a big grin, "and coach said I had kind of a weird look on my face when he shot that one. I probably was questioning it on the release, but I was happy with the result.''
So too was Popovich. "It was 40-38 at the half, wasn't it?'' he said. "We set the Western world of offensive basketball back 10 years.'' Which almost brought a tear to his eye, he was so proud. "These three games is the best defense we've played all season,'' added Popovich.
That got them through this ear-ringing night in one of the league's cozier buildings, which was so filled up for Cleveland's first NBA Finals game that the people seemed to be spilling over onto the court during the introductions. Rookie Daniel Gibson was the first to be introduced among the starters, and when he heard his name he nodded as if knowing he belonged. (He wound up 1 of 10 for two points.) Then LeBron was called out to a furnace of noise, and he leaned back as if singed by the heat before looking around theatrically, as if to claim its ownership.
But for all of the local energy and hard effort, the Cavaliers could never pull ahead by more than eight in the opening half. And when Parker finished a little runner at the buzzer to swipe the 40-38 advantage at halftime and shut the homers up for good, Cleveland never led again.
This was a night when it was better to defend than to score. While Parker (a team-high 17 points) is on the verge of being named MVP of the Finals, something should be done in celebration of Bowen. When he returns to San Antonio for the parade, the love he receives should at least be equal to all of the grief he's caused.
"That's what defines our team,'' said Duncan. "What he does."