Mendoza: Leonard ‘gift’ to Miami will live forever

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By Al S. Mendoza

All Write

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


BANGKOK – Among bar habitués here, still the hottest piece of conversation was Miami’s recent retention of the NBA crown.

It came via the Heat’s 95-88 victory over the hard-luck San Antonio Spurs in Game 7.

The win was a follow-up of Miami’s 103-100 overtime victory in Game 6, erasing a five-point deficit in the last 28 seconds to force a 95-all standoff in regulation.

The rally engineered by LeBron James and Ray Allen was the series-changer even as both
hit pressure-packed threes in igniting a 6-1 finish for the extension.

It was almost a repeat in overtime, when San Antonio led 100-97 with barely 2.5 minutes left and the same hot hands of James and Allen delivered the fatal blows.

And while the Spurs would fire blanks from there after hitting the 100-point mark, the Heat weren’t done shooting.

Allen jumped to push Miami to within 99-100, and then James completed an assist by Dwyane Wade to give the Heat a 101-100 edge.

Allen then hit his free throws twice to key San Antonio’s doom and Chris Bosh capped his regulation heroics by blocking Spur Danny Green’s potential game-tying triple at the buzzer.

Only minutes earlier, Bosh grabbed James’ miss and then flicked the triple-producing pass for Allen that set up the overtime.

Maybe, just maybe, if the 7’2” Tim Duncan was not rested by San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, Bosh would not have plucked the crucial rebound that led to Allen’s three-pointer.

A coaching glitch for Pop?

Ah, that Game 6, again.

San Antonio had virtually had it in the bag.

Before Allen flung his game-tying three, Kawhi Leonard had not only the game in his hands but the championship itself. All he needed to do was to sink two free throws.

He split. Mercifully, he made just one.

And yet, the free throw is the easiest to shoot. For one, unguarded you are. For another, you have all day to ram it home.

Long after these Finals are over, Leonard will continue to be haunted by the stigma of the one that got away, the one gift shot that became, alas, a gift in reverse: A welcome present for Miami.

Why does fate love to kid mortals?

For Leonard, just 21, this was the cruelest.

(alsol47@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 25, 2013.

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