The Heat pushed way ahead early in Game 5, but it proved to be their final punch. The Spurs responded like the five-time champions they are, and Miami had nothing left. In the end, it was another Spurs blowout and a fifth title for Tim Duncan.
The San Antonio Spurs didn't just win the 2014 championship on Sunday night, they also won the sort of ubiquitous admiration that's long been overdue for a franchise this incredible. By blowing the doors off the Heat to win their fifth championship since 1999, the Spurs transformed the banal cliches once used to describe them into an earnest testimony of their own greatness.
If San Antonio's dominance in this series was considered a surprise, it wasn't because the Spurs suddenly flipped a switch. They've been doing this all year long. The Spurs won an NBA-best 62 games without any player averaging 30 minutes per night. No one on the team averaged 17 points per game in the regular season, but nine players averaged more than eight points. They had the sort of ridiculous winning streak truly great teams are supposed to have, winning 19 straight after the All-Star break.
At a certain point, 15 consecutive seasons with more than 50 wins becomes so numbing it loses context. The Spurs lack drama, and because of that, they're considered boring. Well, guess what: the Spurs really did make the 2014 Finals boring, but it was only because they were so good the last three games weren't even competitive. All these years later, it's the biggest compliment you could ever give them. -Ricky O'Donnell
LeBron never got help
In 2007, LeBron James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals, only to get dismantled by the San Antonio Spurs in a four-game sweep. James' postseason failures in Cleveland led him to team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, and after a disappointing loss in the 2011 NBA Finals, the Big 3 reigned over the league by winning two straight championships.
But during the Heat's failed bid for a three-peat, James had to feel a nasty bit of déjà vu, as his supporting cast crumbled around him during the five-game series loss to San Antonio. James will take heat for losing his third Finals, because that's just the nature of being LeBron James. But it's hard to blame a guy who put up 31 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in Game 5. It's hard to blame a guy who averaged 28.2 points on 57.1-percent shooting in the Finals.
Instead, there should be more focus on Wade's struggles. The Heat intentionally tried to conserve Wade throughout the regular season, and up to the Finals, it looked like it worked. But Wade simply looked old against the Spurs, shooting a combined 7-of-25 in Games 4 and 5 while making zero impact on the defensive end. The explosiveness simply wasn't there, and there are serious questions about Wade moving forward because of his balky knees.
James made it a point not to throw Wade or any of his other teammates under the bus after Game 5, and the four-time MVP deflected any questions about the future of the Big 3. After seeing Wade and the rest of the crew stumble badly against the Spurs, will James have thoughts about once again bolting for greener pastures? That's something that'll be decided in the coming weeks. -Jason Patt
Kawhi's so serious
So, who is Kawhi Leonard? Your 2014 NBA Finals MVP, that's who.
The Spurs' latest championship may feel like the culmination of an era in many ways, but the emergence of Leonard this month shows where the team can go from here. Just three years removed from being drafted 15th overall in the 2011 draft, the 6'9 forward often looked like the best player in a series full of future Hall of Famers.
While we'll certainly have to spend some time considering what this title means for the legacies of Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich and the rest of San Antonio's key figures, a look toward the future focuses primarily on Leonard. Already an elite defender and one of the top rebounders at his position, his progress as a scorer ultimately changed the dynamic of the series.
When the Spurs won their first title in 1999, Duncan was an emerging star taking the reins from another all-time great, David Robinson. Leonard, the youngest Finals MVP since then, appears to grabbing the baton from Duncan this time around. -Satchel Price
Duncan's unassuming greatness
Tim Duncan lacks Kobe Bryant's hyper-competitive psychosis. He's never had the ability to turn the entire country into Hot Take arbiters like LeBron James. He didn't yell like Kevin Garnett or make as many terrible jokes as Shaq. Duncan has just sort of went about his business for the last 17 years, punching the clock with little panache and even less room for gossip. When he came home from work on Sunday, he brought back his fifth championship ring.
While some still wanted to make these NBA Finals a referendum on LeBron James' legacy, no one ever seemed to care about Tim Duncan enough to argue his place in history. Big men just aren't as alluring as wings and guards, even if ones with Duncan's ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor are the hardest thing to find in the sport. If the rest of the country wants TMZ, Duncan gave them nothing but straight, useful news.
In a way, it mirrors the identity of the franchise he's lifted up since he was drafted in 1997. Even the Spurs' front office likes to say it works for Tim Duncan, because none of this would be possible without a historic talent of his caliber. He is the rare star unassuming enough to feel undervalued even if everyone agrees he's the greatest power forward ever.
It's easy to take Tim Duncan for granted, but that would be a very silly thing to do. Duncan skated past scrutiny the same way he dominated basketball for almost two decades: with incredible ease. If every star needs a legacy, that's a pretty good one to have. -Ricky O'Donnell
Remembering an unmemorable footnote
Amid all the stats, records, stories and moments, I take one thing as the ultimate sign of the 2013-2014 Spurs' greatness: So indomitable were these Spurs that in the mid-third quarter of an elimination game, the elite NBA coach of an elite NBA team thought to himself "Well, I might as well give the Beas a spin," then did exactly that.
Erik Spoelstra and the Heat grew so desperate that legendary NBA jester, squanderer of talent and giver of nary a fuck Michael Beasley got real NBA Finals burn. Beasley, awoken -- perhaps literally -- and disinterred from the bench for the first time in over two weeks, dusted the crumbs off his lap, straightened his spine out of its chair-shaped contortion and played 17 second-half minutes with the game still undecided. And hey, he hit four of his seven shots, drew a little contact and made defensive rotations only a beat or so late. Beasley even prompted Mark Jackson to say something about how he "could help a lot of teams in this league," which ... well ...
... well, it brings me to my final point: San Antonio's famed culture of excellence needs more challenges. That royal jelly has made an NBA champion out of some curious characters -- most recently former 7-59 Bobcats castoff Boris Diaw -- and now its greatest task is clear. Sign Michael Beasley, Spurs. Make Michael Beasley a key cog on a championship roster. This is your mountain top. -Seth Rosenthal
NBA Finals schedule
Game 1: Spurs 110, Heat 95 James (25 pts), Bosh (19 pts, 9 rebs)Duncan (21 pts), Ginobili (16 pts, 11 ast)
Game 2: Heat 98, Spurs 96 James (35 pts, 10 rebs), Bosh (18 pts)Parker (21 pts), Duncan (18 pts, 15 rebs)
Game 3: Spurs 111, Heat 92 Spurs shot 76% in first half Leonard (29 pts), Wade (22 pts)
Game 4: Spurs 107, Heat 86 Spurs shot 58% in game Leonard (20 pts, 14 rebs), James (28 pts)
Game 5: Spurs 104, Heat 87 Spurs finish on 98-65 run Leonard (22 pts, 10 rebs), James (31 pts)
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