SAN ANTONIO — Those basketball purists who despised how the Miami Heat were assembled were able to watch in pleasure Sunday night as they were dismantled and embarrassed by a team that has been built through the draft, with its players accepting pay reductions to remain in San Antonio.
After blowing Game 6 of the NBA Finals and a chance at a championship a year ago, the Spurs took full advantage of their second chance with a brilliant display of teamwork and perimeter shooting, reducing the Heat to a group of aging or unprepared cohorts that surrounded four-time MVP LeBron James.
James couldn’t carry the Heat in Game 5 as the Spurs used a 37-point swing over two quarters to seal their fifth NBA title in 15 years with a 104-87 win over Miami at AT&T Center.
San Antonio won the best-of-seven series, four games to one, cementing its dominance of the NBA over the past decade and a half and perhaps ending Miami’s Big Three Era. In four years together, the trio of James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh reached four NBA Finals, winning two.
Kawhi Leonard, a third-year forward who did not make the All-Star team, was named Finals MVP, finishing with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
Manu Ginobili added 19 and Patty Mills scored 17.
James, who has an opt-out clause in his contract this summer, finished with 31 points, but just 14 after Miami’s impressive first quarter. James was 10-for-21 shooting with 10 rebounds and 5 assists. Bosh, Wade, and ex-Celtic Ray Allen were a combined 11-for-34 shooting, giving Miami no chance to overcome the streaking Spurs.
“We went to four straight Finals in four years. We’re not discrediting what we were able to accomplish in these four years,” James said. “Take 50 percent in championships any day. Obviously, you want to win all of them, but that’s just the nature of the game. They were the much better team, That’s what team basketball [is] and that’s how team basketball should be played.”
The third quarter was merely a culmination of the Spurs’ dominance in the series. Realizing they were outmanned, the Heat appeared to relent, looking frustrated as the Spurs returned to their ball-whipping ways that resulted in open shots.
After neither team scored for the first 3:08 of the quarter, the Spurs went on a game-defining 18-4 run to extend the lead to 65-44. By then, desperate Miami coach Erik Spoelstra was inserting Michael Beasley (did not play in previous four games) and Mario Chalmers (benched in the first half).
They did little to help.
“It’s frustrating in general to be in a series like this and have the last three games, particularly coming out of the first two games,” Spoelstra said. “But you absolutely have to tip your hat to that team. They played exquisite basketball this series and, in particular, these last three games, and they are the better team. There’s no other way to say it. They played great basketball, and we couldn’t respond to it.’’
The third quarter was a showcase for Mills, who scored 14 points in the period on 5-for-5 shooting, including four 3-pointers.
The Spurs led by as many 22 in the period and the Miami Big Three were relegated to helpless onlookers.
In one sequence, Wade went for a streaking baseline dunk but was snuffed by Tiago Splitter, exemplifying Wade’s struggles in the final two games of the series. The Spurs led, 77-58, after the third quarter, and the home faithful were beginning to smell champagne.
“It’s been a long time [seven years] but it makes it even sweeter,” said Parker, referring to the last time the Spurs were champions. “That’s what I say it’s the sweetest one because it’s just unbelievable to win seven years ago and to be so close last year, it was very cruel. But that’s the beauty of the sport. Sometimes it’s tough and sometimes it can be beautiful like [tonight].”
Miami’s early momentum lasted only one quarter as it reverted to the same confused and lethargic team in the second period as it was in Games 3 and 4.
The Spurs chipped away early in the quarter but then went on an impressive 14-0 run, catching the Heat after a Leonard 3-pointer for a 37-35 lead at the 4:47 mark.
The run ended with a resounding Ginobili dunk on Bosh that invigorated the crowd and gave the Spurs a 7-point lead.
Following a James basket, Ginobili responded with another 3-pointer. He scored 14 points in the first half.
The Heat scored 11 points in the period on 4-for-15 shooting and James was limited to just a 3-pointer.
Meanwhile, Leonard and Ginobili teamed for 29 of San Antonio’s 47 first-half points while Parker and Danny Green went scoreless, a testament to the Spurs’ success despite a lack of balance.
The Heat players not named James were 7-for-21 shooting in the first half with 20 points, making their quest to win three consecutive games appear bleak.
“We felt confident coming into the series that we were going to be able to score,” Spoelstra said. “Maybe not as much as we typically are used to, but coming off of some very good defensive teams and series in the Eastern Conference, we felt we could rely on that, but they shut us out of the paint pretty consistently.
“You absolutely have to credit their offense. It was exquisite basketball, ball movement, player movement, unselfish basketball, and exploiting a lot of the things we’re typically strong at. Everything seemed to click at the right time for them.”