Behind an inspired effort from reigning MVP LeBron James, the Miami Heat became the the sixth different franchise in league history to win back-to-back championships by holding off the San Antonio Spurs, 95-88, in Game 7 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night in Miami.
James was brilliant for Miami, asserting his will throughout the contest to turn in a dominant two-way game. He finished with 37 points and 12 rebounds on 12-of-23 shooting. His five three-pointers were key against a Spurs team that dared the game's best player to shoot through the series, and especially in Game 7.
With the Heat up 90-88, James pulled up and knocked down a long two-pointer with 27 seconds left off a screen from Mario Chalmers to put Miami up four.
Manu Ginobili threw the ball away on the ensuing Spurs possession and James hit a pair of free throws to extend the lead.
San Antonio was not without its chances in the game's closing moments. Kawhi Leonard hit a three-pointer to cut the Heat's lead to 90-88 with two minutes remaining. After a pair of missed free throws from Chalmers and a missed Shane Battier three-pointer on a wide-open look on the ensuing possession, Tim Duncan missed a shot point-blank that could have tied the game with 46 seconds remaining.
Miami was dependent on three-point shooting all season, and Game 7 served as an example of what kind of effect long distance shooting can have. The Heat made 12 three-pointers, with all but one by James or Shane Battier. The Heat received a huge lift off the bench from Battier, whose six three-pointers were reminiscent of Mike Miller making seven threes in the final game of the 2012 NBA Finals.
Dwyane Wade's series was defined by uneven play, but he was an asset for the Heat when they needed it most. Wade was a wrecker on defense and hit enough jump shots to keep the Heat's offense going when James struggled early in the contest. Wade ended the night with 23 points and 10 rebounds, and made several critical plays towards the end fo the game.
Chris Bosh's valuable contributions largely came on defense, even if his final line of zero points, seven rebounds looks disappointing on the surface level.
It's surely a disheartening end to a great run for the Spurs. Duncan was brilliant in turning a throwback performance that only cements his reputation has one of the best players in league history. Duncan finished with 24 points, 12 rebounds and four steals and completely locked down Bosh when the Heat had the ball.
With Spurs star Tony Parker struggling for most of the contest, the 21-year old small forward Leonard assumed a huge role. Leonard became something close to a star this series thanks to his impressive defense against James, and he turned in another great two-way effort in Game 7. Leonard finished with 19 points and 16 rebounds.
Rebounding had been a huge issue for the Heat throughout both the regular season and the postseason, but Miami was determined to fight on the glass on Thursday. The Heat finished tied 43-43 with the Spurs in rebounding.