It was a heck of a run.
If the Heat just provided Miami and South Florida with their greatest sports dynasty, it was a thrill from beginning to end. Led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the Heat has reached four consecutive NBA Finals, won two in a row and given fans something to celebrate summer after summer after summer after summer.
This might not be the end of James’ Heat, of course, but the championship-winning streak came to a convincing end at San Antonio’s AT&T Center on Sunday night. The Spurs defeated the two-time defending champions 104-87 in Game 5 to win the 2014 NBA Finals. Bosh called this year’s version of the Spurs the best team he has ever played against, and James and Wade agreed.
"They dominated us in every facet," James said.
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James began Game 5 with one of his classic offensive tears, scoring 17 points in the first quarter, but the NBA Finals MVP in 2012 and 2013 didn't get as much support from Bosh and Wade this time and an avalanche of Spurs’ offense was simply too much to overcome. After the first quarter, the Spurs outscored the Heat 82-58 to close out the best-of-7 series 4-1.
James finished with 31 points, going 10 of 21 from the field, 3 of 9 from three-point range and 8 of 9 from the free-throw line. The Heat’s other starters combined to score just 32 points. Ray Allen started in place in Mario Chalmers, but that wrinkle didn't make much of a difference. Allen finished with five points and Chalmers had eight points off the bench.
"It’s been a hell of a ride in these four years," Wade said.
Wade scored 11 points and Bosh had 13. Starter Rashard Lewis finished with three points.
"It’s somewhat still disbelief, but because it was such a great team it really makes it worth it for us," said a gracious Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "It’s just great satisfaction beating such a great teamThey’re a class act and they’ll be back next year for sure. I don’t think anyone would really doubt that."
Wherever the Heat’s future goes from here — only reserve guard Norris Cole is locked in contractually for next season — team president Pat Riley’s grand experiment should be considered a huge success. The team has reached the NBA Finals every season since James and Bosh joined Wade.
"As painful as it feels right now, you have to have perspective," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Even the team we were playing against has never made it to four straight Finals. You can’t be jaded enough to not appreciate that. None of us really feel those emotions right now, but at some point this summer hopefully we can step back and gain some perspective about this. It takes a special group."
The Heat’s magical comeback against the Spurs in 2013 was considered one of the best Finals in NBA history, but the rematch never came close to matching that drama. The Spurs got their revenge without much fuss.
"You have to absolutely credit their offense," Spoelstra said. "It was exquisite basketball with ball movement and player movement and unselfish basketball."
Popovich’s team went nearly a full calendar year fueled by the belief that it gave away the 2013 NBA Finals to the Heat. After trouncing the Heat in Games 3 and 4 of the series in Miami, the Spurs closed out the Eastern Conference champions with ease. Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, now in his third season in the NBA, emerged during the series as a budding superstar. He led the Spurs in scoring in Game 3, 4 and 5 and had 22 points in the Sunday’s championship-clinching victory. Leonard went 7 of 10 from the field, 3 of 4 from three-point range and 5 of 6 from the free-throw line, and was named the series’ MVP during the trophy presentation.
"He listens, he’s a great learner and he’s super competitive and he has the drive to be the best, and it’s really uncommon," Popovich said of Leonard. "He walks the walk. He’s there early, and he’s there late."
Reserve Manu Ginobili was a force off the bench. He scored 19 points and provided the Spurs with the best highlight of the series when the drove through the lane and dunked over Bosh in the second quarter.
Ginobili followed with a three-pointer to cap the Spurs’ come back.
The Heat gave the Spurs the best it had in the first half, but it simply wasn’t enough.
After that, the Heat was done.
Miami held the Spurs to just three points in the first four minutes of the second half, but that effort came with a major caveat. The Heat couldn’t score either, and went the first four minutes of the second half without any points.
A driving layup by Bosh gave the Heat its first basket of the third quarter with 7:53 remaining in the period. That’s when the Spurs started pouring it on.
San Antonio reeled off six consecutive points and a reverse layup by reserve Patty Mills gave the Spurs a 56-42 lead with 6:36 left in the period. The Heat called a timeout to quell Spurs’ momentum, and that’s when it got worse. So much worse.
The Spurs outscored the Heat 30-18 in the third quarter with Mills going 4 of 4 from three-point range. Mills finished had 14 points in the period and finished with 17 overall. Tony Parker scored 14 points for the Spurs and Tim Duncan had 14.
The Spurs had just eight turnovers and held the Heat to 40 percent shooting from the field and 28 percent shooting (7 of 25) from three-point range.
A relentless effort by James helped give the Heat a 29-22 lead after the first quarter.
James played all but 14 seconds in the first period and scored 17 points. It gave the Heat a 29-22 lead after the first quarter, but that didn’t last long. Allen’s three-pointer in the first period tied for Chalmers’ total number of three-pointers in the series, but Wade and Bosh had trouble finding their rhythms. That was a problem in the second quarter.
The Spurs outscored the Heat 25-11 in the period. James couldn’t carry the Heat for every minute of the first half, and Bosh and Wade weren’t up to the challenge.
"I just struggled a bit," Wade said. "I’m never going to point at anything physically. I felt fine. I just struggled a little bit offensively. You know, I wish I could have done more, but it’s the nature game, you know."