Winners and Losers from 2013 NBA Finals

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 21, 2013

Winners and Losers from 2013 NBA Finals

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    Technically, just one winner—the Miami Heat—emerged from the 2013 NBA Finals. In the same way, the San Antonio Spurs were the only loser.

    But that's a reductive way to look at one of the most entertaining, unpredictable and dramatic finals in recent memory. There were so many facets to this series, and the myriad storylines that emerged only added to the depth of a matchup that came with so much built-in excitement in the first place.

    Bit players like Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard took on major roles. Dwyane Wade rode a roller coaster of criticism and praise. And, of course, LeBron James tightened his grip on history.

    The Heat are hoisting the trophy while the Spurs are hanging their heads, but there were plenty more winners and losers than that.

Winner: Old Guys Everywhere

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    Tim Duncan averaged an incredible 18.9 points and 12.1 rebounds on 49 percent shooting during the finals. Have I mentioned yet that he did so after completing his 16th NBA season at the age of 37?

    Duncan missed a running hook shot with less than a minute left that would have tied Game 7. He was visibly distraught, and he even pounded the floor in frustration as he got back on defense. Because of that miss, one of the final images of Duncan's season is going to be a bitter one.

    But that's no reason to label him a loser. The man played at an elite level, even taking over the entire first half of Game 6 en route to a monstrous 30-point, 17-rebound effort.

    Duncan put on a fantastic performance in a losing effort. He's got nothing to be ashamed of. Timmy is a winner on behalf of himself, and old guys everywhere.

Loser: Miami's Other Streak

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    The Heat ran up a 27-game winning streak during the regular season, but by winning Game 7, Miami actually ended another streak that was pretty impressive in its own right.

    Heading into the deciding game of the series, the Heat had alternated wins and losses over their previous 13 games. Put it another way, they hadn't won consecutive contests since May 15 and 22, which included a Game 5 victory over the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and a narrow Game 1 escape against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals.

    By defeating the Spurs in Games 6 and 7, the Heat registered back-to-back wins for the first time in nearly a month.

    That's a testament to the quality of Miami's last two opponents, as much as it is a statement on the team's inability to focus for consecutive games.

    Either way, the Heat's up-and-down streak finally bit the dust.

Winners: Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard

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    It's a little unfair to both Green and Leonard to lump them together, but the narrative for each breakout role player is largely the same.

    San Antonio is defined by its own Big Three, but without major contributions from both of its young wings, the Heat could very well have wrapped up this series in five games.

    Green set the NBA Finals record by hitting 27 three-point shots. Sure, he tailed off in Game 6 and crashed in Game 7. But don't let his ugly 1-of-12 shooting night in the series' deciding game sway you; he absolutely terrified the Heat throughout the finals.

    Leonard's emergence could be even more meaningful for the Spurs going forward. He averaged 14.6 points, 11.1 rebounds and shot 51.3 percent from the field while spending the lion's share of his time on the court doing battle with James. That's a remarkable achievement for the 21-year-old, and one that indicates what kind of star the Spurs have on their hands.

    Both of San Antonio's young studs may have tasted defeat, but they're winners by any logical measure.

Loser: Chris Bosh

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    This one's not complicated. Chris Bosh was 0-of-5 from the field in 28 minutes in Game 7, going scoreless for the first time since his rookie year. Miami ended up winning, but had he been able to contribute at all on offense, the final game of the series may not have even been close.

    Bosh deserves some credit for a couple of critical offensive rebounds during the Heat's incredible Game 6 comeback, but overall, his numbers just weren't much to behold.

    He put up 11.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game on just 46.2 percent shooting from the field in the finals. Bosh's finals average of 2.1 free-throw attempts per game doesn't cut it, especially since he can be a liability on defense.

    Don't worry, he's celebrating a second consecutive championship right now. He'll get over being termed a "loser."

Winner: The Backboard

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    The backboard? Yes, the backboard.

    If not for a wild carom, James' errant three-pointer in the final minute of Game 6 wouldn't have found its way back into his hands mere seconds later.

    James' second attempt from nearly the same spot found the bottom of the net, pulling the Heat to within two points and providing the precursor to Ray Allen's game-tying bomb shortly thereafter.

    And then in Game 7, Mario Chalmers' desperation heave to end the third quarter bounced hard off the backboard and fell through. The 28-footer gave the Heat a one-point advantage heading into the final quarter of the postseason.

    Nice job, backboard.

Loser: The Press

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    The end of the postseason means no more Gregg Popovich press conferences, which is a major bummer for every member of the media.

    How are they supposed to get their daily dose of biting sarcasm and dismissive answers now? Maybe every beat writer keeps a tape of Popovich nearby so they have a taste of some of the most entertaining soundbites ready at all times.

    Pop was on fire throughout the finals, capping his dominant run through the media with an epic pregame press conference before Game 7.

    Everyone will miss Pop's sideline interviews, his postgame media sessions and his generally cranky demeanor. The summer won't be the same without him.

Winner: Class

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    The Spurs are a a model organization in many ways. They have a remarkable coach who adapts his system to his personnel, they draft and scout better than anyone, and every player on the roster puts winning first.

    They're also unfailingly classy.

    After the Game 7 buzzer sounded, Popovich broke out a rare smile as he sought out Eric Spoelstra. He congratulated his rival heartily, conceding defeat with grace.

    To a man, the Spurs stay away from the kind of chest-pounding, look-at-me bravado that so many other teams embrace. When they lose, they congratulate the victor and move on. As much as anything, San Antonio gave a clinic on class in these finals.

Super-Mega-Ultra-Winner: LeBron James

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    You saw this coming, right?

    James was the best player in these 2013 finals, which is hardly a surprise. He's been playing at his own level for a couple of years now. Capping off a historically good season by scoring 37 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and hitting a bevy of mid-range jumpers to clinch a championship in Game 7 was a fitting end.

    With by far the most at stake, James got the job done. What's incredible is that he did it by taking the exact shots the Spurs hoped he would. LBJ took 20 shots from outside the paint as San Antonio sagged off him and dared him to shoot.

    He made nine of those attempts, winning a title by drilling the shot he spent his offseason honing. More than anything, James proved that there is no one way to guard him. He won Game 7 on San Antonio's terms.

    With series averages of 25.3 points, 10.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists, James was more than deserving of his second straight NBA Finals MVP award.

    Sometimes, there's backlash against excessive praise for James. But in cases like this, objective analysis can't really sound any other way. LeBron James was phenomenal in the biggest moments of the finals, and for that reason, he's the biggest winner of all.