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Spurs roll over Heat to claim NBA title


Bob Donavan/USA SPORTS

SAN ANTONIO — Those basketball purists who despised how the Miami Heat were assembled were able to watch in pleasure Sunday night as they were embarrassed by a team that has been built through the draft, with its players accepting pay reductions to remain in San Antonio.

After blowing Game 6 of the NBA Finals and a chance at a championship a year ago, the Spurs took full advantage of their second chance with a brilliant display of teamwork and perimeter shooting, reducing the Heat to a group of aging or unprepared cohorts that surrounded four-time MVP LeBron James.

James couldn’t carry the Heat in Game 5 as the Spurs used a 37-point swing over two quarters to seal their fifth NBA title in 15 years with a 104-87 win over Miami at AT&T Center.

San Antonio won the best-of-seven series, four games to one, cementing its dominance of the NBA over the past decade and a half and perhaps ending Miami’s Big Three Era. In four years together, the trio of Dwyane Wade, James, and Chris Bosh reached four NBA Finals, winning two.

Kawhi Leonard, a third-year forward who did not make the All-Star team, was named Finals MVP, finishing with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Manu Ginobili added 19 and Patty Mills scored 17.

James, who has an opt-out clause in his contract this summer, finished with 31 points but just 14 after Miami’s impressive first quarter. James was 10-for-21 shooting with 10 rebounds and 5 assists. Bosh, Wade, and ex-Celtic Ray Allen were a combined 9-for-35 shooting, giving Miami no chance to overcome the streaking Spurs.

Miami’s momentum lasted only one quarter as it reverted to the same confused and lethargic team in the second period as it was in Games 3 and 4. The Spurs chipped away early in the quarter but then went on an impressive 14-0 run, catching the Heat after a Leonard 3-pointer for a 37-35 lead at the 4:47 mark.

The run ended with a resounding Ginobili dunk on Bosh that invigorated the crowd and gave the Spurs a 7-point lead. Following a James basket, Ginobili responded with another 3-pointer. He scored 14 points in the first half.

The Heat scored 11 points in the period on 4-for-15 shooting and James was limited to just a 3-pointer. Meanwhile, Leonard and Ginobili teamed for 29 of San Antonio’s 47 first-half points while Tony Parker and Danny Green went scoreless, a testament to the Spurs’ success despite a lack of balance.

The Heat players not named James were 7-for-21 shooting in the first half with 20 points, making their quest to win three consecutive games appear bleak.

As promised, the Heat started off with the passion and fire not seen since Game 2, jumping out to an 8-0 lead behind 6 points from James, who had that same look he carried in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals two years ago at TD Garden, when he scored 45 to beat the Celtics.

He showed no emotion in scoring on the Spurs at will while his cohorts were giving him some assistance, unlike the two games in Miami. Rashard Lewis canned a 3-pointer, followed by a James conventional 3-point play and then a Ray Allen 3-ball at the 5:04 mark and the Heat raced to a 22-6 lead.

San Antonio, hearing for the past two days about its greatness and brilliance after two impressive wins in Miami, looked confused and disheveled. A Leonard 3-pointer was the Spurs’ lone field goal through the first 7:12 of the game.

Instead of relenting, the Spurs responded in the best way they know how: the 3-pointer. After a Ginobili 3-point play, he came back with a trey, followed by long balls from Leonard and Patty Mills for a 12-0 run to slice the deficit to 22-18. The crowd at AT&T Center, very comfortable in the fully air conditioned arena, went into a frenzy.

James couldn’t allow too much excitement. He hit a 28-foot 3-pointer followed by two free throws. The Heat looked like the two-time defending champions for most of the first quarter, yet led just 29-22 with the Spurs having hit just six of their 21 shot attempts.

While it appeared the Miami supporting cast would provide James some relief, they didn’t follow through. James finished the first period with 17 points on 5-for-7 shooting while the rest of the Heat were 4 for 12 with 12 points.

Four of San Antonio’s six field goals in the first quarter were 3-pointers and the starting trio of Boris Diaw, Green, and Parker did not score.

The third quarter was merely a culmination of the Spurs’ dominance in the series. Realizing they were outmanned, the Heat appeared to relent, looking frustrated as the Spurs returned to their ball-whipping ways, resulting in open shots.

After neither team scored for the first 3:08, the Spurs went on a game-defining, 18-4 run to extend the lead to 65-44. By then, desperate Miami coach Erik Spoelstra was inserting Michael Beasley, who did not play in previous four games, and Mario Chalmers, who was benched in the first half. They did little to help.

The third quarter was a showcase for Patty, who scored 14 points in the period on 5-for-5 shooting, four 3-pointers. The Spurs led by as many 22 in the period and the Miami Big Three were relegated to helpless onlookers.

In one sequence, Wade went for a streaking baseline dunk but was promptly snuffed by Tiago Splitter, which exemplified Wade’s struggles in the final two games of the series. The Spurs went on a 59-22 run over two-plus quarters and led, 77-58, after that third period, and the home faithful were beginning to smell champagne.

by: Gary Washburn

The Boston Globe