Heat beat Spurs to win second straight NBA championship
Heat forward LeBron James holds the Larry O'Brien Trophy and the Bill Russell MVP trophy after defeating the Spurs to win Game 7 of the NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena in Miami, June 20, 2013. (JOE SKIPPER/Reuters)
The Heat is off LeBron James.
Miami’s superstar lit up the San Antonio Spurs from outside and with assistance from Shane Battier and Dwyane Wade, propelled the Heat to a second straight championship Thursday night with a 95-88 victory.
It was as close as this epic series has been and finally, one of these great teams won consecutive games.
With Miami up two inside of the final minute, 37-year-old Tim Duncan, so spectacular over the final two games of the series, missed an easy tap-in inside.
James nailed a jumper – as he had been doing all night – and then stole the ball on the ensuing possession to stick a fork in the veteran Spurs, who were denied a fifth title in franchise history after coming 28 seconds away in Game 6 before collapsing in overtime.
James finished with 37 points and 12 rebounds, including five three-pointers, joining Michael Jordan and Bill Russell as the only players to win two straight regular season and Finals MVP awards.
“I can’t worry what everybody says about me. I’m LeBron James. What everybody say about me off the court, it don’t matter. I ain’t got no worries.
“The vision that I had when I decided to come here is all coming true.”
The Heat became just the fourth team ever to rally from a 3-2 deficit in 2-3-2 series.
It was by no means the prettiest game of the series, but it was the rare contest that went right down to the wire.
A nail-biter to cap a cardiac-testing series.
Though Miami seemed like the better squad all evening, again, the Spurs would not go away, as had been the case a few times over the first six games.
James needed some help and he got it from his running-mate Wade, one of the greatest warriors in the sport.
Wade played through two hurting knees to score 23 points and Battier nailed 6-of-8 threes for 18 points of his own.
“Better to be timely than good,” joked Battier, just 1-for-9 from beyond the arc to start the series.
"They played Hall-of-Fame basketball tonight," said a gracious Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich of James and Wade, before complimenting Battier as well.
"If you're going to match that, you have to be pretty perfect. I didn't think we played our best game in that regard."
Chris Andersen came up big off of the bench with some great defence on Duncan and the Heat survived despite getting 0 points from Chris Bosh.
James had said he’d deliver a multitude of titles to South Beach and he’s well on his way after finishing off the repeat.
James started off quietly, but came to life in the second half. The Spurs dared him to shoot, and he delivered.
Again and again.
Why not, he said. After all, he had an elite season shooting the ball from mid-range and his best ever from deep.
James has the highest scoring average in NBA history in elimination games (31.5), but he has needed help when he has won those contests.
Wade and Battier did the trick.
The Heat gave Wade the ball on the iso to end the half and he connected, giving Miami a basket lead.
Mario Chalmers nailed a long three at the buzzer ending the third quarter and Miami outlasted San Antonio in the fourth.
Every time the Spurs crept close, Battier seemed to be there waiting to pounce.
With Tony Parker and Danny Green combining to shoot 4-for-24, it was amazing that the Spurs even stayed around to the bitter end.
They can think up-and-coming star Kawhi Leonard for that.
Leonard was awesome with 19 points and 16 rebounds and Ducnan delivered 24 points and 12 rebounds after one of his best-ever playoff performances in Game 6.
Now, the Spurs are left to rue what might have been, to ponder whether a run that began in 1999 is now over.
They were oh so close.
The Spurs actually outscored Miami by five points over the course of the series.
Heading into Thursday’s game, the winner of fifth games in series’ tied 2-2 went on to win 74% of the time.
But the Heat didn’t care.
Not with James on board.
James had come in under intense scrutiny – as usual.
It comes with the territory since he is the NBA’s top player by a decent margin and has been making headlines since before he even was a teenager.
But not all of the attention – particularly the criticism – is warranted.
Take all of the assertions that he should be a non-stop attacking wrecking ball in each and every game.
Just not feasible, say the guys on the court.
“He can’t do that for the whole game. Guys have to realize that, at this level, playing like this is very difficult. He can do it in spurts, but we need different guys to do different things. Sometimes he has to defer to save his energy just a little bit,” explained Bosh.
“You can’t shoot every ball, get every rebound, or make every assist.”
Added Spurs forward Danny Green, who spent a lot of time guarding James in the series, along with Kawhi Leonard and Boris Diaw:
“He’s not superhuman. He plays a lot of minutes, it’s a long season, it’s not easy to do that all the time.”
And with the lanes closed on this night, James was content to attack with his jumper, which had been so improved all season long.
“We have to do whatever it takes to bring that trophy or to keep that trophy here in Miami,” he said before the ball was thrown up.