“It’s better to be timely than good,” Battier said. “I believe in basketball gods and I felt like they owed me big-time.”
For Duncan, the Spurs’ four-time NBA champion and future Hall of Famer, it was his first loss in a Finals. He finished with 24 points, going 8 of 18 from the field, but went 2 of 6 in the fourth quarter. As a team, the Spurs shot 30 percent (6 of 20) from the field in the final period.
San Antonio led by three with 46.4 seconds left in the third quarter before Battier tied the score with his fourth three-pointer of the game.
“Game 7 is always going to haunt me,” Duncan said.
A STORYBOOK SEASON
Alongside the 1972 undefeated Dolphins, the 2013 Heat will go down as one of the greatest professional sports teams in South Florida history. The unforgettable run began with a franchise-best 66-win regular season, which included a 27-game winning streak, and ended on a makeshift stage in the middle of AmericanAirlines Arena with Heat owner Micky Arison raising his franchise’s third Larry O’Brien Trophy.
“Go party,” someone screamed into the stage’s microphone to the 19,900 fans in attendance and an entire city watching from homes and parties and bars throughout South Florida.
Thursday night marked the seven-year anniversary of the Heat’s first championship. In that time, Miami has celebrated more NBA titles than any other city. But this party was different. It was ecstasy borne from endurance and wonderment crafted by willpower.
For Heat players, coaches and fans, the back-and-forth nature of the final month of the postseason was a gut-wrenching exercise. Beginning May 22 and not ending until the final game on the last possible day of the postseason, the Heat swapped wins for losses and kept an entire city wrapped in dueling emotional states of despair and joy.
Last year, when the Heat won its first title of the Big 3 Era and put to rest the pain of 2011, James said the struggle was the toughest thing he had ever accomplished. This run to the title was exponentially more difficult and the sweetness of victory resonated throughout the region deep into the night.
‘THE SWEETEST ONE’
“This is the sweetest one by far because of everything we’ve been through, everything I’ve been through individually,” Wade said, “and to get here to this moment, to have that kind of performance, that kind of game, help lead my team – it’s special.”
James’ stretch of greatness since the start of the 2011-12 regular season has been a masterstroke of legendary athletic excellence. He has won it all two years running – the championship, the MVP and the NBA Finals MVP – becoming the first player to win all three in back-to-back seasons since Michael Jordan in 1991 and 1992.
“Everything that we’ve been through throughout this postseason, especially in these Finals, to be down – we were down every odd game,” James said. “We were scratching for our lives.”