The Miami Heat completed their stunning two-part comeback Thursday night, upending the San Antonio Spurs with a 95-88 win in Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals to claim their second consecutive championship. It was a potentially legacy-defining victory for the "Big Three" in South Beach, as everyone did their part in a classic series between two great teams.
For a team often considered the most talented in the league, the Heat seem to make things as difficult as possible en route to success. Trailing in the waning minutes of a series-deciding Game 6 on Tuesday, though, Miami's best players came through, coming back from down five with under 30 seconds to go before winning in overtime to force a Game 7. And Game 7 went down to the wire, with neither side leading by 10 at any point and LeBron James needing to score his 33rd-through-37th points of the evening to get the Heat the win and the title.
To reflect on what's potentially the peak of the LeBron/Dwyane Wade/Chris Bosh, era, we've put together a collection of highlights -- from the chuckle-worthy to the downright incredible -- to remember this year's NBA Finals. (Note: there will be many Spurs highlights, because a seven-game series requires awesomeness from both sides)
The Spurs set the tone for a highly competitive series in the first game with a 92-88 San Antonio victory in South Beach. Stuck in a back-and-forth affair, San Antonio finally asserted itself in the fourth quarter with a 19-9 run that proved to be too much for Miami to overcome. In basketball -- the game of runs -- the stage was set for a series defined by them.
But before we get into all that, let's just reflect on Tony Parker, le magnifique:
Norris Cole: Bad job, bad effort.
Inquisitive fans might ask, "But Tony, how could you possibly top that on basketball's biggest stage?"
Why, how about with a tumbling, whirling dervish of a drive where he nearly turns the ball over like four times and then decides to double-clutch while avoiding a LeBron block eventually tossing a runner off the glass as times expires? One of those, please:
The following isn't directly related, but it pretty much sums up Game 1:
This game was the Miami blowout. It was actually close for the first two-plus quarters, but then the Heat exploded late in the third quarter with a 30-7 run to put away with the game. The big story in the early going was the hot shooting of Danny Green, however, who ended up having a pretty good series:
The Heat eventually found their own groove from three-point range, though, putting on a show for the fans. Needing a spark in the fourth quarter, Spurs big man Tiago Splitter found an opening to drive toward the rim. owever, upon reaching his destination he found, well, he found this:
I don't know if that block is better than this one, but it was probably the peak of the series for LeBron.
Also known as the "anything you can do, we can do better" game. Coming off the 19-point loss in the previous game, the series headed back to San Antonio, where the Spurs shellacked the Heat, 113-77. Miami's "Big Three" combined for 43 points on 39-percent shooting, while Kawhi Leonard, Gary Neal and Green combined for 65.
Here are just a few of the top plays from that contest:
KEEP POUNDING THAT ROCK.
Meanwhile, it appears LeBron spent this game focusing his spiritual energy:
Going down 3-1 on the road would've been a practically impossible situation for Miami to rebound from. We've seen this team climb back from ridiculous deficits before, but the Cleveland Cavaliers in March are an ant hill compared to climbing Mount Duncan in June. Alas, Miami did what it usually does: win.
For the most part, the 109-93 Heat victory was about the resurgence of Dwyane Wade resulting from plays like these:
"The Bosh-copter is down! Repeat, Bosh-copter IS down! ... Oh wait, forget that, he's fine."
Trading wins continued in the fifth game of the series as the Spurs pulled out a 114-104 win. Powered by a vintage performance from Manu Ginobili, who finished with a season-high 24 points and 10 assists, San Antonio took a pivotal 3-2 series lead with the victory:
Manu also set up Danny Green on his record-breaking 23rd 3-pointer of the series. He finished the series with 27.
It was just one of those games for Miami:
Facing elimination against one of the league's all-time great teams -- precisely the kind of group that wouldn't shy away from the pressure of the moment -- Miami needed a charge of energy in Game 6. And, as expected, it came from LeBron James ... or, well, his headband.
In a truly special game that embodied everything great about playoff basketball, the guys expecte to rise to the occasion -- LeBron, Duncan, Ray Allen -- all did. Miami's 103-100 overtime victory stands as an immediate classic, the kind of game you're just happy to have taken in.
Things started like usual with both sides taking punches through a matrix of chaotic adjustments. But then Mike Miller lost his shoe, threw it into the crowd, completely ignored what had just happened, instead throwing the crowd into a tizzy with this shot:
Weird, you say? That was nothing compared to what happened to LeBron sans cranium accessories.
And yet, despite LeBron's brilliance, San Antonio still seemed positioned to win the game. All the Spurs needed to do was get one final stop and get ready to cele- WAIT DON'T LET JESUS SHUTTLESWORTH SHOOT WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?!!?!?!?!
Jesus. Freaking. Shuttlesworth. 'Nuff said.
When the Spurs attempted their own magical finish in overtime, San Antonio's modern-day Shuttlesworth found a fistful of Bosh:
Foul? Maybe, but the refs made it clear during the prior 52-plus minutes that whistles would go silent on borderline calls so seeing a non-call on this play wasn't remotely surprising.
So we were down to Game 7, the first time the NBA season had come down to a decisive final game since 2005 and only the third time since 1990.
It was a classic, with neither team managing a double-digit lead at any point. After a hesitating start, the intensity and action picked up from end-to-end late. And the Heat came out on top LeBron James putting up 37 points, grabbing 13 boards and earning his second straight Finals MVP. He had some ridiculous highlights:
Some ridiculous highlights followed by yells:
And threes. The Spurs continued to back off of him as they had all series, except tonight, James took jumpers without hesitation and knocked them down, including five threes on 10 attempts.
Mario Chalmers had just 14 points on 15 shots, but at least he had a flashback to his heroics in the 2008 national championship game with a random buzzer-beater to put the Heat up two heading into the fourth quarter:
But James was there. With the team up two and under half a minute to go, James was the ballhandler in a pick-and-roll at the top of the key, the defender went under the screen, and he went up for his signature moment:
The Spurs wouldn't score again, and when the final buzzer sounded, the celebrations could begin:
James got the MVP
And of course, the champagne: