MIAMI — It was title No. 3 for Dwyane Wade, catapulting him into an elite class of winners. This title run, however, has been the most difficult for the perennial All-Star. Wade has suffered through various knee issues and persistent murmurs that his best days are behind him.
So his role on the Heat has been adjusted. When LeBron James arrived in Miami in 2010, he and Wade were equal contributors, but James has slowly assumed the title of primary scoring option while Wade has settled in as his complement.
With Game 7 upon him, an opportunity to cement his legacy as one of the NBA’s greatest shooting guards, Wade was hoping his body would cooperate and his game would resurge just one more time this season. Wade scored 23 points and had 10 rebounds Thursday night as the Heat defeated the Spurs, 95-88, to win their second consecutive NBA title.
“Well, I think we personally need the championship because we personally want it. It doesn’t matter if we win it, next year it will be the same thing. You’re not going to please everybody with what you do,” he said before Game 7. “But I think it’s been a great achievement to be in three Finals in a row, because the hard part of this, everyone sees the names and say, oh, they should be, but it’s a lot harder than that. So to be here three years in a row is a great achievement, and to be in this position now, to be able to win two championships out of the three is even greater.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had very little inspirational quips before Game 7, looking, as usual, as if appeasing the media with good quotes was the last thing on his mind.
“We’re already thrilled that the day is starting out great because it’s the final shootaround of the year, what could be better than that?” he said. “And I’m serious.”
When asked if the 2005 Game 7 experience helped him Thursday, he said: “I’m just as limited now as I was then.”
Popovich took his share of criticism for the Spurs’ Game 6 collapse with his benching of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker in critical moments of the fourth quarter and overtime. After blowing a 5-point lead with 28.2 seconds left, the Spurs lost, 103-100, in overtime in one of the more painful losses in recent memory.
“Well, you know, just filling the cup up again basically,” he said. “That was a devastating loss. To say anything less than that would be disingenuous. One rebound or the next rebound or make a free throw and the game is over. That’s a pretty devastating situation.
“So from the minute we left the arena it was about mental recovery more than anything, and putting things in perspective, getting to the point where you slap yourself and you don’t cry about it and pity yourself and move on and realize that somehow or other you earned two chances to win one game to be NBA champions. That’s pretty cool to have that opportunity. So that’s been the emphasis, to get to that point so that cup fills up again and past is past, and go compete.’’ It’s right here. That’s all that mattersSo that’s how we spent our time
Game 6 hero Ray Allen was scoreless in 19:54, a stunning statistic given the Heat’s victory in Game 7. Allen was 0 for 4 coming off the bench, missing two 3-point attempts. He had four assists and four rebounds . . . Shane Battier was Miami’s unsung hero in Game 7, scoring 18 points, all on 3-pointers . . . Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said benching Udonis Haslem in Game 6 was one of the toughest things he had to do. Haslem was scoreless in 1:37 of Game 7. He is the longest-tenured member of the Heat . . . The last Game 7 in an NBA Finals was in 2010, when the Lakers beat the Celtics, 83-79.Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe