Miami over San Antonio (4-1)
Game 1: Heat 93, Spurs 88
Miami’s Big Three combines for 88 points, scoring all but five of the team’s points in a tight win at the AT&T Center. The game is back and forth throughout, with San Antonio’s role players greatly outperforming Miami’s.
With 14 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Spurs are down by three (88-91) and have possession. During their final allotted timeout, Gregg Popovich draws up an out-of-bounds play that uses Ginobili as a decoy in order to create a great look for Matt Bonner, who enters the game during the timeout.
The play is run to perfection, as Miami’s defense overcommits on Ginobili and loses Bonner, but the Red Rocket’s corner three-pointer doesn’t connect. Dwyane Wade grabs the rebound and gets fouled immediately.
Wade gets a favorable roll from the rim and converts the first free throw, zapping almost all of the energy out of the arena. As he steps up to the line for his second attempt, color commentator Jeff Van Gundy notes that Wade has missed big-moment free throws before.
This would not be one of those times, as the second free throw effectively ends Game 1.
Game 2: Spurs 94, Heat 81
This time, it’s the Spurs’ Big Three that takes over. Duncan, Parker and Ginobili combine for 64 points, as Parker leads the way with 27. In the third quarter, the trio help the team break out to a double-digit lead and never look back.
Miami struggles in Game 2, with every player except for Dwyane Wade having a bad shooting night.
LeBron amasses 11 assists and 10 rebounds to go along with 13 points, but his triple-double is about as impressive a feat as seeing snow in Alaska during the winter because he shoots 3-13 from the field in a loss. Bosh also struggles, going 4-12 from the field to total 11 points.
Similar to Game 1, Miami’s role players struggle and are greatly outperformed by their San Antonio counterparts.
From Game 2’s culmination up until Game 3’s commencement, a familiar media narrative arises. LeBron’s lackluster game is heavily scrutinized, and many sports fans wonder if history will soon repeat itself.
Game 3: Heat 97, Spurs 88
In nearly every contentious playoff series, there is a certain game or moment that shapes how the remaining contests play out.
Enter Game 3.
In their first home game of the series, the Heat’s role players start performing at the same level they were at during the early part of the regular season. Mario Chalmers and James Jones—who gets his first dose of meaningful playing time in the Finals—combine to go 8-10 from three-point range in the first half, helping Miami go into halftime with a 10-point lead. Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem also provide solid first half contributions, with each scoring six points off the bench.
In the third quarter, James and Wade start playing aggressively and are looking to score. Because of the three-point threat, San Antonio’s defense provides Miami’s two superstars with the best driving lanes they’ve seen all series. Miami explodes out to a 22-point lead (85-63) to close out the third quarter, even with Chris Bosh totaling just three points on 1-8 shooting from the field.
Through the first three quarters, the Spurs had gotten decent contributions from Parker and Duncan, but Ginobili and the role players were struggling. Ginobili was just 2-11 from the field, with seven points and four turnovers, and couldn’t seem to string together any consistent offense.
That would change in the fourth quarter.
With LeBron and D-Wade on the bench to start the fourth, the Spurs go on a 10-2 run—with Ginobili scoring eight of those points—cutting the Heat’s lead to 14 (87-73) with about eight minutes left. Following an Erik Spoelstra timeout, both James and Wade re-enter the game to try and prevent any further reduction of their advantage.
They didn’t have much luck.
Over roughly the next four minutes, the Spurs continue slashing the lead with another 10-2 run as Ginobili remains hot—hitting two three-pointers in the span—and the Heat’s offense is stagnant. With just under four minutes left, and the score now 89-83, the collective vibe inside American Airlines Arena has shifted from celebratory to nervous.
Over the next two minutes, Miami’s offense continues to be stuck in a deep rut. Neither James or Wade can hit any shots, even though they’re getting decent looks.
Ginobili continues to put the Spurs on his back, scoring five more points to bring the deficit to one (89-88) with just over one and a half minutes left. Dwyane Wade brings the ball across half-court, and Erik Spoelstra calls a timeout as the game starts to bear a striking resemblance with Game 2 of last year’s Finals.
Out of the timeout, Miami runs an out-of-bounds play nearly identical to what the Spurs ran near the end of Game 1 that resulted in a missed three-pointer by Matt Bonner.
But this time, there’s a different result.
With the defense making Wade priority number one, James slips out uncovered and hits a wide open jumper to bring the score to 91-88. The Spurs, electing not to use a timeout, bring the ball down and run a quick isolation for Ginobili, but he doesn’t convert—thanks, in part, to tight defense by James.
Miami comes back down and runs down the shot clock with the ball in Wade’s hands. With just over 50 seconds left, Wade pulls up for an elbow jumper over Ginobili and nails it, making it a five point game (93-88) with 49 seconds left.
This time, Gregg Popovich uses a timeout.
On the Spurs next possession, Ginobili drives past James early in the shot clock and dishes the ball to a wide open Stephen Jackson. As the shot begins its flight, the whole arena gasps as the ball makes its way towards the rim.
A split-second later, a loud collective exhale rolls through as the ball bounces off the rim into the outstretched arms of Wade.
Down by five with 40 seconds left and one remaining timeout, the Spurs elect not to foul. Wade brings the ball up and again dribbles down the shot clock.
With just a couple ticks left, Wade forces an impossible-looking fadeaway over the outstretched arm of Ginobili.
The high-arcing jumper that would be impossible to make even in a video game drops straight through the cylinder for a perfect swish.
Down by seven, with 15 seconds left, the Spurs use their last timeout.
Ginobili misses a three-pointer out of an out-of-bounds play. Bosh, who had just three points, rebounds the ball and hits two free throws after Duncan fouls him.
As the buzzer sounds and the clock reads zero, Wade grabs the ball and launches it straight up in the sky (side note: the Dolphins could use a quarterback). Miami’s fans, players and coaches are in a state of jubilation, knowing they very nearly blew a 22-point lead and home court advantage.
The Spurs faces are marred with defeated looks that could be mistaken as a signal that they just lost the series.
Game 4: Heat 102, Spurs 77
From beginning to end, Miami is in complete control over a Spurs team that resembles the criticisms of those who wrote them off as too old to win another title.
The Spurs are completely flat, unable to create any offense whatsoever, while the Heat are rolling. Behind Chris Bosh’s 22 first-half points, Miami takes a 66-42 lead into halftime.
Unlike Game 3, San Antonio can’t seem to make any substantial cuts into the lead that will build some momentum. Coming off of two consecutive seven-game series that were preceded by a compressed 66-game schedule, it looks like fatigue has caught up with the Spurs.
Game 5: Heat 90, Spurs 79
In the decisive game, the Spurs performance is much better than in Game 4 but doesn’t give them the opportunity to take the series back to San Antonio.
Understanding that this might be his last chance at an NBA title, Tim Duncan scores 23 in the first half to keep the Spurs in the game at 48-42. Miami’s first half scoring is balanced, with Chalmers’ nine points leading the way. The Spurs scoring, however, comes majorly from Duncan, with Parker’s seven points—on 2-9 shooting—in second. Ginobili has just five points—on 1-6 shooting.
In the second half, Miami turns to their two superstars.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade each play the whole third quarter, leading Miami to a 17-point advantage to close out a quarter in which they outscored San Antonio 27-15.
As the fourth quarter commences, Miami is up 75-57. Erik Spoelstra takes no chances, leaving Bosh, James and Wade on the floor with Chalmers and Haslem. Miami doesn’t let up one bit on defense, continuing to stifle the Spurs penetration and pick and roll game that had helped them get this far.
A little over halfway through the fourth quarter, Miami leads 83-64. Both teams continue to play their starters until about three minutes left.
With 2:24 left on the game clock, his team completely out of gas, and an 86-67 game score, Gregg Popovich puts in his reserves and Erik Spoelstra does the same. Miami’s Big Three each comes out of the game at the same time to a raucous applause. They are about to accomplish the goal that brought them together two summers ago, making all the scrutiny they have endured more than worth it.
For LeBron James, it has finally happened: no longer can he be included among the greatest players of all-time to never win a championship. No longer will his impressive career achievements—three Most Valuable Player awards, eight all-star selections, six all-NBA selections, three all-NBA defensive team selections, a scoring title and now a Finals MVP—be quickly written off by so many because he doesn’t have a ring.
His championship will solidify the fact that he made the correct decision in taking his talents to South Beach.