NBA confirms Tim Duncan was illegally subbed in during Game 6

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich talks to San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Manu Ginobili (20) and power forward Tim Duncan (right) during overtime in game six in the 2013 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena. The Heat won 103-100 in overtime. (Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports)

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich definitely substituted Tim Duncan in illegally at the end of regulation in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals. (Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports)

The NBA dodged a massive bullet after Ray Allen pulled a Jesus Shuttlesworth and saved the Heat’s season with 5.3 seconds remaining in regulation of Game 6. Had future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan been the one to bury a game-winner in those final seconds, the league would have to explain why a player who was not even supposed to be in the game in the first place had just won his Spurs the championship.

Let’s back up. What are we talking about?

After Allen hit his series and season-saving three for Miami, the officials stopped the game in order to check out the tape. The refs were looking to make sure Allen’s feet were both behind the three-point line.

Coach Gregg Popovich’s Spurs were out of timeouts at the time. The break in action gave him an opportunity to at least talk to his players, if not draw something up.

Pop substituted Duncan, which was an illegal move. Because there was no foul or timeout called, the same five players that walked off the court to wait were the same five who were supposed to walk back on.

But such was not the case, and the NBA confirmed its mistake on Wednesday.

Nuts, indeed. The substitution should have been called a technical foul, which should have resulted in Miami foul shots. Such a situation would have presumably resulted in Ray Allen winning the game for the Heat.

Conversely, if Duncan (or any other Spurs player for that matter) had hit a shot to win the game, they would have done all the celebrating in the world — only to have to re-play the final five seconds of the game at a later date.

Seriously. The shot would have been protested by the Heat, and an expedited ruling on the part of commissioner David Stern would have likely forced the two teams to take the court, totally cold, with seconds remaining in Game 6 of the Finals. Remember, the Spurs would have already celebrated winning the NBA title, as any game-winning shot with Duncan on the floor at that point would have given San Antonio four wins for the series.

Luckily, the NBA does not have to worry about any of the this. The Spurs did not score, the Heat won, 103-100, in an epic overtime clash, and now both are gearing up for what promises to be a Game 7 for the ages.

Although we just have to say: While the Thursday Game 7 is going to be nuts, doing over Game 6 would have really made for some viewing for the ages.

Settle It: Who is going to win Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals?

  • zjay

    Where is the evidence that this would result in a technical foul? I think it makes sense, but couldn’t find where it implies this in the rulebook

  • zjay


    Illegal Substitute……………………..12A V c 40

    Section V—Conduct

    c. A technical foul called for (1) delay of game, (2) coaches box violations, (3) defensive 3-seconds, (4) having a team total of less or more than five players when the ball

    becomes alive, (5) a player hanging on the basket ring or backboard, (6) participation in the

    game when not on team’s active list, or (7) shattering the backboard or making the rim

    unplayable during the game (Comments On the Rules—G) is not considered an act of

    unsportsmanlike conduct.

    – 40 –