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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 9:51 AM

It always comes down to a good-news, bad-news scenario for the road team in an NBA Finals Game 7:

The good news here is that the San Antonio Spurs have terrific Finals experience dating all the way back to the strike-shortened 1999 season - they're a perfect 4-and-oh in their NBA Finals history as everyone well knows - and there have been three NBA road teams to have copped a Game 7 in Finals history with the last being the 1978 Washington Bullets who snagged a Game 7 win in Seattle.


Now here's the bad news for the visiting Spurs:

NBA Finals Game 7 road teams are a collective 3-14 SU (straight-up) in league history - an ugly .176 winning rate - and probably no time in league history has a Game 7 road team lost such a monumentally tough Game 6.

Yes, the Larry O'Brien Trophy - or "Larry"as the players like to call it these days - was wheeled out near the court the other night but then was wheeled back in after the Spurs blew it.

Okay, so you likely saw all the quotes by the Spurs yesterday following Tuesday's tough-to-stomach 103-100 overtime loss in Miami in a Game 6 for the ages:
Folks like Tim Duncan and Tony Parker proclaimed that offered a one-game shot to win an NBA championship prior to the start of this 2012-13 NBA season the Spurs would have jumped at the opportunity.

Yeah, easy to say now but try buying into that notion after blowing a five-point lead with 28 seconds left in regulation play and then going seven consecutive overtime offensive possessions without a single point!

It's funny how playoff series tend to go:

Once upon a time there seemingly wasn't any pressure at all on the Spurs as they were 2-to-1 underdogs to win this best-of-seven series - pardon the pun but all the heat was on the Heat and specifically on mega-star four-time NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James.

To be sure, there's plenty of pressure on James and mates to win this evening and thereby repeat as NBA champions but now there's a major weight on San Antonio's shoulders too whether it be Duncan, Parker, the sagging Manu Ginobili and/or head coach Gregg Popovich who - let's just say - didn't enjoy his "finest hour"late in Game 6 or in the hours following Game 6 while attempting to explain his substitutions of first Duncan and then Parker to the pine.

And isn't it only a little hilarious that now the NBA offices say Popovich illegally substituted Duncan back in with 5.2 seconds remaining in regulation play following that replay-reviewed three-point, game-tying basket by Miami's Ray Allen!

In any event, we're finally here at a Game 7 and so before we get you our complete Spurs-Heat Preview in today's Jim Sez, here's a look back at all the NBA Finals Game 7 winners in league history with home teams in CAPS):

2010 LOS ANGELES LAKERS Boston Celtics
2005 SAN ANTONIO SPURS Detroit Pistons
1994 HOUSTON ROCKETS New York Knicks
1988 LOS ANGELES LAKERS Detroit Pistons
1984 BOSTON CELTICS Los Angeles Lakers
1978 Washington Bullets SEATTLE SUPER SONICS
1974 Boston Celtics MILWAUKEE BUCKS
1970 NEW YORK KNICKS Los Angeles Lakers
1969 Boston Celtics LOS ANGELES LAKERS
1966 BOSTON CELTICS Los Angeles Lakers
1962 BOSTON CELTICS Los Angeles Lakers
1960 BOSTON CELTICS St. Louis Hawks
1957 BOSTON CELTICS St. Louis Hawks
1955 SYRACUSE NATIONALS Fort Wayne Pistons
1954 MINNEAPOLIS LAKERS Syracuse Nationals
1951 ROCHESTER ROYALS New York Knicks

It's worth noting here that the last five NBA Finals that gave us a Game 7 featured championships for the Game 7 home team but San Antonio fans/optimists will be quick to point out that the three Game 7 road winners in Finals play all have occurred the last nine times a series was knotted at three games apiece ... so there is some "recent history"to road teams winning a Game 7 in this round.

- Series tied 3-3; Game 7 is tonight at 9:05 p.m. ET

Okay, so let's toss out the burdens both teams feel while heading into this Game 7 in South Beach and let's get right to the game plans/strategies here:
Miami realizes the so-called "Big Three Era"probably ended sometime this year when Dwyane Wade's knees often betrayed him and when forward Chris Bosh showed major signs of slowing down too and so naturally much of the scoring falls here on James who registered 32 points on 26 field-goal attempts in the Game 6 overtime win - and no NBA player has been better for a nine-or-so minute stretch than James was in the fourth quarter of Game 6 when you tally up his scoring, passing and defense (don't forget that ultra-critical block of Duncan that really was a monstrous play in that game).

Still, while the media know-it-alls claim James will be anxious to get off his shots early here in Game 7 and put up one of those 40-plus point games, we see "The King"playing this one as he has done the rest of the games this post-season:

Get everyone involved early - especially Wade (just 6 made FGs in Game 6) and Bosh (five made FGs in Game 6) - and see if some of those isolation plays being called by Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra works in the half-court game. The fact of the matter is James might not attempt 25 shots in this Game 7 - how other teammates are shooting it figures to determine James' mindset come the second half and especially the fourth quarter.

Two major keys for the Heat:

They must win the "hustle stats"of steals and blocks - they accomplished that 16-to-10 in Game 6 - and they must get someone cranked up outside the so-called "Big Three"with PG Mario Chalmers the likely candidate following his heady 20-point night (7-of-11 FG shooting) - but ole reliable Allen could shoot some big daggers here for the Heat and help to deflate the Spurs, so stay tuned!

On the flip side, the Spurs - obviously - cannot expect any 25-point half from Duncan who poured in 25 of his team-high 30 points in the first two quarters of Game 6 but San Antonio must feed him plenty. If Duncan attempts fewer than 16 or 17 shots from the floor here, then there's a problem.

Okay, so everyone knows Parker - despite the great three-point hoop over James the other night and the ensuing big two-point basket - was pretty much gassed down the stretch in Game 6 and so Popovich must get him a few minutes rest in the body of the game and San Ant can't stagger badly without him.
Memo to Pops: Don't take both Duncan and Parker out of the game at the same time or some 10-2 Miami run could really derail championship hopes.

It goes without saying that the Spurs have to be effective and efficient from beyond the three-point arc here in Game 7:

The 5-of-18 shooting totals from downtown in Game 6 were clearly unacceptable as Danny Green (1-of-5 from beyond the arc and 1-of-7 overall in Game 6) has to shake off his cover and get some clean looks at the hoop from deep and it wouldn't hurt if reserve G Gary Neal awoke from his recent slumbers to nail some triples here (see 1-of-3 downtown in Game 6).

On this topic, don't be at all surprised if Popovich forgoes some defense for the shooting of Matt Bonner who is quite capable of lighting it up in a short period of time - just ask the Memphis Grizzlies!

Now, here's how the NBA Finals series between the Spurs-Heat has gone so far (note the home team in CAPS):







San Antonio

+ 5





- 6.5

San Antonio




- 2





- 1










- 7

San Antonio

103-100 (ot)

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will cap off this hoops season with the NBA Finals Game 7 Winner when you check in either right here online or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 after 1 p.m. Eastern time this afternoon - so don't dare miss out! Also, keep banging out loads of Major-League Baseball Winners too each/every day online (Hit & Run Club on a 9-4 run!).

Call it crunch time or gut-check time or what-have-you: Just know that NBA Finals Game 7 tilts don't come along all that often (as you can see by our chart, just 10 times in the past 50 years) and someone's legacy is gonna be further burnished tonight in Miami ... while someone else is gonna take a big hit.
Lights, cameras, action!

NOTE: We will review the NBA Finals Game 7 bash between the Spurs and the Heat in tomorrow's jam-packed edition of Jim Sez and remember there's lots of NBA Draft, Major-League Baseball and NFL goodies straight ahead all summer long!

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