This is an article about Tracy McGrady.
That's because T-Mac, the 34-year-old playing in his first NBA Finals, is getting the chance to actually play in the NBA Finals. He's now logged 15 minutes over two games of NBA Finals garbage time. On Sunday, he played because after being down one point with just over 3 minutes left in the third, LeBron James, Mario Chalmers, and the Miami Heat went on an eight-minute, 33-5 run to take over the game. By the time T-Mac got on, San Antonio were halfway to the Alamo.
Today in his first offensive possession, McGrady got the ball in the corner with James guarding him. T-Mac pump-faked the NBA MVP, drove baseline, and dished the ball between James and Ray Allen to Tiago Splitter, who had this happen to him last game, but this time was able to sneak past an unsuspecting, uncaring Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for a free slam dunk. By the time T-Mac got off the court, the Spurs had won by 36, 113-77. But the reason he was on the court in the first place was because of Danny Green, and Gary Neal, and Kawhi Leonard, and because of LeBron James, and Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade.
Because let's be honest about what we saw tonight. The Spurs beat the living shit out of the Miami Heat, especially in the second half, and did so by putting on the best three-point display in the history of the NBA Finals. They broke the record with 16 made three pointers, and shot 50% from behind the arc. Manu Ginobili went 0-4. Matt Bonner went 0-2. Patty Mills and McGrady were on the court to shoot and miss, too. But by the time they started jacking prayers, the game was over.
And that's because Danny Green went fucking nuts. He was 7-9 from deep en route to 27 points, and ended his night on back-to-back 27- and 26-foot shots. Gary Neal hit six of 10 from three off the bench for another 24. Leonard chipped in with 14 points and 12 rebounds, but more importantly, helped hold LeBron to 7-21 from the field for an alarmingly average 15 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. He didn't do it by himself; LeBron didn't shoot well and didn't attempt a single free throw, and or because the Spurs were able to do what they've largely been able to do for all but a horrifying eight minutes this series—keep a literal wall of bodies and arms between the King and the basket, and make the rest of the Heat beat them. In Game 1, the rest of the Heat couldn't. Sunday, they did. Today, LeBron was again called on to do everything, because he can and almost always does. But with every game, it looks more and more apparent that when he doesn't, or even scarier, can't, the Heat are second-best.
That, on some level, is because of Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, who have more or less sucked ass since March. Today, Bosh had 12 points and 10 boards, while Wade chipped in with 16 points and five dimes. Those are decent stat lines for decent players, but Bosh and Wade are not, or at least cannot afford to be, decent players against a team that has Tracy McGrady logging garbage minutes. With the Heat, the formula has always been to let James have historic games, one of either Bosh or Wade get his, and one or a combination of support players, whether it be Chalmers or Battier or Haslem or Miller or Birdman or Allen or, hell, Norris Cole, make up the difference. But so far, basketball's most unstoppable force has been contained. Of course, he might flip a switch and a week from now, and none of this will matter.
But tonight, Duncan said about LeBron after the game, "If we can keep him in front of us and make his life as difficult as possible, we'll live with the results." He knows that if they stop LeBron, they stop the Heat. Because even if James goes off, his support still has to come through against San Antonio. And if the Spurs can continue to hold LeBron at bay, is Bosh going to carry the load playing the four like a two and banging with the best power forward ever in the paint? How is a diminished Wade going to fare having to chase around Green, Neal, and Ginobili on a bad knee? Can he still put up big numbers given space, let alone against the Spurs' younger, longer, fitter wing players? And scarier, where's the difference going to come from? How many times can Miller duplicate tonight's 15-point showing? Is Battier's season effectively over? What can Allen muster up? Is Haslem overmatched? Is Birdman? Is Cole?
Right now, it looks like the Spurs have out-heated the Heat. The onslaught, the difference, it seems, can come from Green, Neal, or Leonard, or, like tonight, from any combination of the three.
If the Spurs can come close to another shooting display like tonight, and if they have somehow magicked a way to make sure LeBron's life stays difficult, who from the Help can Spolestra and James reasonably trust to do much more than cover Tracy McGrady?