The Miami Heat capped off their epic run through the playoffs Thursday night, defeating the San Antonio Spurs, 95-88, in Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals in Miami.
The Heat are officially back-to-back champions and plans are already underway for a raucous parade down Biscayne Boulevard.
LeBron James earned his second-straight Finals MVP award for his efforts in the series, which includes a legendary fourth-quarter and overtime performance in Game 6 that cemented his legacy as one of the game’s all-time greats.
James had 37 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in the Game 7 victory, willing his team to a win in the biggest moment and on the biggest stage. His second straight NBA Finals MVP was as deserving as they come—using his performances in Games 6 and 7 would have been enough to justify the trophy.
James was also 5-of-10 from behind the arc, making the Spurs pay for the decision to go under screens and give him space to work with. LBJ did everything asked of him and more in this series, and deserves all the praise soon to be heaped his way after his legendary string of games in June.
As noted by Turner Sports' Rachel Nichols, the American Airlines Arena was motivated and ready to put claims of bandwagon status to rest early on in the game:
Have been in this arena for a lotta basketball games. This is probably the loudest I've ever heard it this early in a game.— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) June 21, 2013
It was an unbelievably even series through six games, with the 3-3 series count giving way to the idea that neither team was willing to budge one inch. Miami took a two-point lead into the half after a late Wade basket to close the second quarter, but the game was far from over.
The Spurs cut it to one by the end of the third quarter, but a Mario Chalmers three-pointer that was banked in at the buzzer gave the Heat some momentum heading into the final frame.
Miami managed to grab the lead without a point from three of its biggest stars (via Ethan J. Skolnick of The Palm Beach Post):
Bosh, Miller, Allen: 0-for-14— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) June 21, 2013
As Los Angeles Lakers reporter Mike Trudell noted, the defense was buckling down for both teams after a series full of big-time stops:
The D has been so good tonight for both teams. SAS have only 10 assists, MIA 12. SAS averaged 24.5 (No. 1), MIA 22.6 (No. 12) on year.— Mike Trudell (@MikeTrudell) June 21, 2013
A back-and-forth fourth quarter featured big shots by both teams, with James and Shane Battier hitting long threes to extend the lead and Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard each hit big shots to keep the Spurs within two points at the two-minute mark.
San Antonio had a chance to tie in the final minute, but Tim Duncan missed a sweeping right-handed layup that would have knotted the score at 90. NFL.com's Ian Rapoport couldn't believe it:
How do you explain Tim Duncan missing a point-blank shot with the game on the line… How? That's why this is great. Drama.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 21, 2013
James then hit a clutch jumper with 27.9 seconds to play to put the Heat up by four, and San Antonio's last-ditch efforts on the other end were in vain as Miami completed the victory and the third title in the history of the franchise.
Dwyane Wade added 23 points in his second straight impressive performance with the series on the line, and Shane Battier redeemed himself after a poor Eastern Conference Finals with six three-pointers off the bench—a number tied for the most ever in a Game 7 in NBA history.
The Heat won this game without Chris Bosh, Ray Allen or Mike Miller scoring a point.
On the other side, Duncan led the Spurs with 24 points and 16 rebounds. Leonard had 19 points and 16 rebounds in another performance that makes you feel like he's going to be an unquestioned star very soon, and Tony Parker and Ginobili both finished in double figures to contribute in San Antonio's losing effort.
Danny Green and Gary Neal, two of the heroes from earlier in the series, combined for 10 points (two three-pointers) on 3-of-19 shooting with three turnovers and one assist. It was a marvelous season for the Spurs, but Gregg Popovich's boys came up just short in their pursuit of title No. 5.
This Game 7 Miami win heralds in the official start of a new dynasty in South Beach, one that could bring home plenty more titles in the coming years. The Heat have now captured two titles and been to three Finals in the Big Three-era, which has every reason to last a bit longer.
How many more championships will Miami win in this era?
Although James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all have the option to become free agents after the 2013-14 campaign, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which these defending champs would break up a core that is going to be a favorite to three-peat next year.
Miami would follow the 1952-54 Minneapolis Lakers, 1959-68 Boston Celtics (eight-peat), 1991-93 Chicago Bulls, 1996-98 Bulls and 2000-02 Los Angeles Lakers as the sixth team to accomplish this impressive feat.
There’s also the bold prediction that James made, back when he first made the controversial decision to take his talents to South Beach. He truly believes that this group is capable of winning more than seven championships together.
With No. 2 out of the way, he and the rest of the Heat supporting cast in one more step closer to actually achieving his seemingly unmanageable prophecy.
However, as Kevin Garnett said after his 2008 championship run with the Boston Celtics, “anything is possible.”
Anyone who saw the multiple miracles in the waning moments of Game 6 can attest to that, as it just seems that no scenario is too far-fetched or impossible for this elite cast of superstars and role players.
Miami shouldn’t rest on its laurels for too long, but the players certainly deserve some time off to soak this all in for a second-straight year.