A champion has been crowned. The Miami Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs 95-88 Thursday night in Miami to win their second consecutive NBA title. The Spurs had a defensive game plan to slow the Heat, and they stuck with it throughout Game 7.
Unfortunately, LeBron James had an answer for that game plan, hitting nine shots outside the paint. The Spurs were daring James and his teammates to beat them with jumpers, so that is exactly what James did.
San Antonio held serve up until the bitter end, squaring off and keeping pace with the eventual champions. In the end, its execution fell short and the Heat simply hit too many shots.
James finished 12-of-23 from the field for 37 points. He hit five three-pointers, was a perfect 8-of-8 from the free-throw line, and picked up 12 rebounds and four assists.
Joining James with a double-double was Dwyane Wade. Wade played perfect alongside James, picking up 23 points and 10 rebounds. Wade was also hot from mid-range, hitting 6-of-12 from the area. He took what the Spurs gave him all night.
The X-factor for Miami came off the bench and was nearly perfect. After slogging through a tough shooting slump in the series, Shane Battier came up huge Thursday night. Without his 18 points on 6-of-8 threes, the Heat may not have even been in this game. Every time the Spurs saw a light and were ready to go on a run, Battier knocked down a dagger trey.
Tim Duncan was a star in every way, scoring 24 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Unfortunately, he missed a couple chances at the rim to tie the game in the closing minutes.
The youngster Kawhi Leonard, meanwhile, poured in 19 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in 45 minutes. Manu Ginobili made some costly turnovers, but he chipped in 18 points as well.
Wade got himself going late in the first half. He netted six of his 14 first-half points in the final 3:20, a final jumper putting the Heat up 46-44 at halftime. James led all scorers with 15 points in the first half, and he was the only Miami player to shoot a free throw.
Leonard hit three mid-range jumpers for San Antonio at the second half outset. He was also active defensively, causing a deflection and bodying up James. On offense, he appeared to be the Spurs' No. 1 option at times. Leonard's bucket at 9:07 knotted things up at 52.
After setting the court on fire through the first handful of finals games, Danny Green went 1-of-12 in Game 7. He finally calibrated the range and sank a corner three for San Antonio. Unfortunately, James responded with a pair of his own treys, and he finished 5-of-10 from beyond the arc. His fifth put the Heat up 62-57 with 3:32 remaining.
After 10 straight points from James for Miami, the Spurs' team effort was still leading. Finally, the MVP got some help in the form of two threes—one from Battier, his fourth, and then Mario Chalmers' buzzer-beater from 30 feet. That bomb set the Heat up with a 72-71 lead entering the final quarter.
Nothing came easy through the start of the fourth for either team. Battier hit another three and the Heat got some free throws, but the Spurs defense was packed in and daring them to shoot low-percentage shots. At the other end, Parker lofted a shot/pass to Duncan at the rim for an easy bucket at the 8:34 mark, bringing San Antonio within two at 77-75.
James continued hitting jumpers, which is a usually a death sentence for almost every team in the NBA. His 17-footer with 5:39 to go put the Heat back up 83-77. Chris Bosh, Ray Allen and Mike Miller finished the game scoreless, making James' 31 points at that point all the more impressive.
Having perhaps the most up-and-down game of his career, Ginobili brought the Spurs to within three with a lollipop trey. Luckily for Miami, Battier matched him with another three of his own. Battier's sixth three of the game had the home team up 88-82 with 3:19 to play.
Leonard was doing a little bit of everything in Game 7, so his three-pointer with two minutes left on an assist from Ginobili should come as no surprise. The basket brought San Antonio within two, 90-88.
Chalmers bricked a pair of free throws, and his teammates missed a series of jumpers. At the other end, Duncan couldn't capitalize at the rim to tie. He missed the offensive rebound tip as well, slapping the floor in frustration. James finally connected on a jumper with 27.9 seconds to go, which lifted Miami ahead 92-88.
James and Wade went 3-of-4 from the free-throw line down the stretch, sealing their second championship of the Big Three era.