|Spurs beat Heat 104-87 in Game 5 to win NBA title|
|Sunday, June 15, 2014 8:00 PM|
SAN ANTONIO — From their low moment in the NBA Finals, back to the top of the league.
The San Antonio Spurs turned the rematch with the Miami Heat into no match at all.
The Spurs finished off a dominant run to their fifth NBA championship Sunday night, ending the Heat’s 2-year title reign with a 104-87 victory that wrapped up the series in five games.
A year after their heart-breaking 7-game defeat, their only loss in six finals appearances, the Spurs won four routs to deny Miami’s quest for a third straight championship.
Kawhi Leonard, named the finals MVP, had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Spurs. San Antonio added this title to the ones the Spurs won in 1999, 2003, ‘05 and ‘07. They nearly had another last year but couldn’t hold off the Heat and lost in seven games.
San Antonio rebounded from an early 16-point deficit by outscoring the Heat 37-13 from the start of the second quarter to midway in the third.
The celebration the Heat canceled last season was on by the early second half Sunday, when the Spurs had finished digging their way out of an early 16-point hole and opened another huge lead.
LeBron James had 31 points and 10 rebounds for the Heat, who lost their spot atop the NBA to the team that had it so long.
The Spurs won four titles in nine years but hadn’t been back on top since 2007, making Foreigner’s “Feels Like the First Time” and appropriate song choice after the final buzzer.
Tim Duncan and coach Gregg Popovich have been here for all of them and it was the fourth for Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, who with Duncan are once again the reigning the Big Three in the NBA.
LeBron’s big start for naught and Heat reign ends: James went to the bench midway through the fourth quarter, took a seat and covered his eyes with his left hand.
His night was over.
His reign atop the NBA, also over.
The only thing James plays for is championships and this season, he didn’t get a chance to grasp the Larry O’Brien Trophy. A 31-point, 10-rebound effort wasn’t enough to get Miami past San Antonio.
So for the first time since June 21, 2012, the Heat are not NBA champions. This 4-year run with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh together has seen huge success — a league-best 283 wins, four straight trips to the NBA Finals to join only the Celtics and Lakers as franchises to pull off that feat, plus two NBA championships.
They’ve won 71 percent of their games in these four seasons.
Here’s something that might sound surprising: The Spurs have been better over that stretch, winning 73 percent of the time.
And now, ready or not, here comes the summer of possible Miami discontent.
James, Wade and Bosh can all opt out of their contracts and become free agents. They’ll likely all tell the Heat their plans by June 29, or two days before the free-agency window opens. Shane Battier is retiring, his career ending after 13 seasons on Sunday night. Just about everyone else, including Mario Chalmers — who came off the bench for the first time in three years Sunday — is a free agent.
Just about every spot on the roster could be up for grabs. Backup point guard Norris Cole is under contract for next season and little-used center Justin Hamilton has a partially guaranteed deal, though he expects to be in Miami.
There are huge questions. Wade missed about one-third of the regular season for maintenance and injuries and clearly labored as the NBA Finals wound down. James had a monster finals and the Heat still lost in five games — so now the biggest issue facing Miami will be how to get him the help he needs to vie for more titles.
That is, if James even stays. He has given no indication he’s leaving. He hasn’t said he’s staying, either.
James announced before the game that he would change his typical approach, which was his way of saying that he was going to be more aggressive from the outset and not worry so much about getting teammates involved in the early minutes.
“Follow my lead,” he told teammates before they took the floor.
It worked. For a while, anyway.
James had 17 points and six rebounds in the first quarter, plus a spectacular chase-down block on one end and a 30-footer to beat the shot clock at the other. Miami led 22-6 in the early going, holding the Spurs to their longest scoreless start of the season. Everything was looking like the Heat got to script the way the opening minutes would go.
And then, thud.
Like so many other times in these finals, the Spurs went on a run and just kept running. By midway through the second quarter, San Antonio had the lead. Early in the third, it reached double digits. Midway through the third, it was up to 21 — which, at that point, marked a staggering 37-point turnaround from the opening moments.
In the end, the Heat became the 32nd team unable to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the finals, even though there was no storyline that James would have savored more than being the team to buck that trend.