SAN ANTONIO - The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Miami Heat 104-87 on Sunday to capture their fifth NBA championship and deny the Heat a third straight title.
Fueled by the disappointment of a seven-game loss to the Heat in last year's finals, the top-seeded Spurs throttled the two-time defending champions in the final three games to take the best-of-seven title series four games to one. "We remember what happened last year and how it felt in that locker room and we used it and built on it and got back here and it's amazing," Spurs center Tim Duncan said. "It makes last year OK."
San Antonio also won titles in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007. With this win they became the first team since the Detroit Pistons in 1989 to win the title after falling in game seven of the finals the previous year. The Spurs lost the last two games of the 2013 finals after being up 3-2. They led with 28 seconds to go in game six last year but let the contest slip through their fingers.
"Last year's loss was devastating," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "A day didn't go by where I didn't think about game six.” “So I think in general for the group to have the fortitude that they showed to get back to this spot speaks volumes about what kind of fibre they have."
Popovich claimed his fifth ring and now trails just Phil Jackson (11) and Red Auerbach (nine) for the most in history. Pat Riley and John Kundla also have five titles. "We having that experience and going through that loss pushed us even harder this year," said 22-year-old Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, who was named the Most Valuable Player of the finals.
Leonard led the Spurs in scoring in the final three blowout wins that followed Miami's only victory in the series in game two. Leonard scored 22 points on Sunday and finished with 10 rebounds in front of a standing-room only crowd of 18,581 at the AT&T Center arena. "I am just living in the moment right now," he said. "I didn't think at all I was about to win the MVP of the finals."
The Spurs shot just 28 per cent from the floor in the first quarter and trailed by 16 at one stage before turning it around in the second quarter to take a 47-40 lead into halftime. They shot a finals record 52.7 per cent from the field for series. "We got a little stagnant at the beginning," said San Antonio's Manu Ginobili. "We changed in second quarter our defence was better.” “It is hard to believe. We played on a really high level. We had everybody contribute. It wasn't about Tim Duncan or Tony Parker."
Argentina's Ginobili and Australian Patty Mills came off the bench to score 19 and 17 points respectively for the Spurs, whose bruised egos were itching to, avenge last year's defeat. LeBron James tallied a game high 31 points and had 10 rebounds, while Chris Bosh scored 13 points for the Heat.
"It's just, it's just frustrating to be in a series like this and have the last three games, particularly coming out of the first two games," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "But you have to tip your hat to that team. They played exquisite basketball this series and in particular these last three games. "They played great and we couldn't respond to it." The Spurs' big three of Parker, Ginobili and Duncan have now won four titles together.
Duncan also joined John Salley as the only players to win titles in three decades, and is also the first player to win championships 15 years apart with the same team. Duncan, who has five titles, said that this is the most rewarding. "It is sweeter than any other, whether it be because of the time frame, because I am coming to the end of my career, because I can have these two (Ginobili and Parker) here and really remember it and enjoy the experience," Duncan said.
James put on a clinic in the first quarter, scoring 17 points on five-of-seven shooting from the field as the Heat started strong in their bid to fend off elimination. Miami opened the game on an 8-0 run as they were determined to avoid the sluggish starts that have plagued them all series.
San Antonio answered with a 12-0 surge over a two minute stretch that cut the Heat lead to 22-18, with just under three minutes left in the first. But just as the first quarter was dominated by Miami, the second belonged to the Spurs, who outscored the Heat 25-11 to take control of the contest.