Few would doubt that LeBron James is the best player in the NBA. Unfortunately for him, there’s absolutely no doubt that the San Antonio Spurs are the best team.
The Spurs made that perfectly clear in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night, clinching the league title by scoring a convincing 104-87 victory to flatten James’s two-time defending champion Miami Heat. Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 22 points and 10 rebounds and was named Finals MVP for averaging 17.8 points per game during the series. Coincidentally, Leonard, 22, became the youngest player land MVP since a 22-year-old Tim Duncan won NBA Finals MVP honors in 1999.
"It feels good to play the Heat again and beat them," said the soft-spoken Leonard during the Finals postgame show on NBA TV. "It feels like a dream, really. To be able to win one and lose one last year...it just feels surreal."
Added Duncan: "We wanted to play against them, beat them. [The 2014 championship] means more to me."
James said of the Spurs: "They were the better team and that's why they're the champions in 2014. I'm not disappointed in any of my teammates. I just wish we could have come through."
The win marked the fifth NBA title for the Spurs organization, coach Gregg Popovich and star Tim Duncan, tying him with Kobe Bryant for league superstars of this generation with the most rings. With the win, Duncan also became the first player in NBA history to start for a championship team in three separate decades, winning in 1999, 2003, and 2014. The championship also serves as the fourth title that Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have won as teammates for 12 years. Meanwhile, Miami's loss not only ended dreams of a three-peat, but also generates major offseason questions for the Heat's Big Three of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
As they did throughout the series, the Spurs used total teamwork and balanced scoring to thwart King James’s reign, extracting revenge for last year’s Finals’ loss to the Heat. After surviving a 22-6 first-quarter deficit, the Spurs came roaring back, pulling within 29-22 by the end of the first quarter. Then, San Antonio really turned it on, outscoring Miami, 55-29, throughout the second and third quarters, before cruising to the 17-point win.
Defeating James and the two-time defending champion Heat in five games washed away the painful memories of losing a five-point lead with 28.2 seconds left in Game 6 of last year's Finals, and subsequently letting the title slip away.
"We had it," Ginobili said of the Spurs' dissapointing end to 2013. "It was a tough summer. It was painful."
Even the Spurs couldn't believe, though, that they'd win each 2014 Finals' game by a margin of 15 points or greater.
"It wasn't expected of course," Ginobili said.
As the Spurs celebrate their championship, the Heat are left with many questions. James, Wade and Bosh can each choose to exercise the opt-out clause of their respective contracts this summer, becoming free agents. It has also been a heavy rumor that Miami's Big Three could become the Big Four with the addition of impending free agent Carmelo Anthony. In order to make that a reality, each of those star players would have to take a lower salary.
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