Breaking Down How San Antonio Spurs Dominated Miami Heat in 2014 NBA Finals

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Breaking Down How San Antonio Spurs Dominated Miami Heat in 2014 NBA Finals
Tony Gutierrez/AP Images

After a third straight blasting of the two-time defending champions, the San Antonio Spurs are the true kings of the NBA in 2014.

They dismantled the Miami Heat, winning the series 4-1, and winning each game by at least 15 points. San Antonio wrapped up the series Sunday with an emphatic 104-87 victory. The only hiccup came in Game 2.

In hindsight, that game will look like little more than a wake-up call for the Spurs, as they went on to win three straight by an average of 19 points. The series was far different than the back-and-forth Finals that ended up going to Miami in seven games last season.

 

When it Clicked for the Spurs

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Two things happened for the Spurs in Game 3: Gregg Popovich countered Miami's small lineup by starting Boris Diaw over Tiago Splitter, and Kawhi Leonard woke up.

And when I say Leonard woke up, I mean he played the Mount Vesuvius to Miami's Pompeii.

In Games 3, 4 and 5, Leonard averaged 23.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, two steals and two blocks, all while spending essentially every minute he was on the floor defending LeBron James.

As for the adjustment to go to Diaw, it completely opened up San Antonio's offense because of Diaw's shooting and point forward skills. And more importantly, it stifled Miami's offense by giving San Antonio a forward willing to defend perimeter-oriented bigs Chris Bosh and Rashard Lewis.

Stats for Key Spurs
PTS REB AST FG% 3P%
Tony Parker 18.0 0.4 4.6 47.9% 41.7%
Kawhi Leonard 17.8 6.4 2.0 61.2% 57.9%
Tim Duncan 15.4 10.0 2.0 56.9% 0.0%
Manu Ginobili 14.4 3.0 4.4 50.0% 41.7%
Patty Mills 10.2 1.4 1.6 54.3% 56.5%
Danny Green 9.2 2.0 1.2 53.1% 45.0%
Boris Diaw 6.2 8.6 5.8 36.4% 33.0%
Tiago Splitter 6.2 3.4 2.0 70.6% 0.0%

NBA.com

 

Where it All Went Wrong for the Heat

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Whenever San Antonio was clicking offensively—the fourth quarter of Game 1, and all of the last three games—Miami was darn-near helpless.

So, if you want to point to a specific moment when things turned for Miami, go with that fourth quarter of Game 1. Maybe even that moment when LeBron went out with cramps.

Sure, the Heat won Game 2, but in retrospect, that was nothing more than a blip on the radar.

The Spurs became well aware during that late run in Game 1 that when they executed their offense and moved the ball, Miami couldn't rotate fast enough to bother them. Not even a little bit.

Stats for Key Heat Players
PTS REB AST FG% 3P%
LeBron James 28.2 7.8 4.0 57.1% 51.9%
Dwyane Wade 15.2 3.8 2.6 43.8% 33.3%
Chris Bosh 14.0 5.2 1.0 54.9% 38.5%
Ray Allen 9.8 3.0 1.8 41.5% 40.9%
Rashard Lewis 8.6 1.6 0.4 50.0% 45.5%
Mario Chalmers 4.4 1.4 2.8 33.3% 14.3%

NBA.com

 

Who's to Blame in Miami?

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

During halftime of Game 5, ESPN's Bill Simmons compared this Heat team to the 2010 Cleveland Cavaliers. You know, the squad that didn't give LeBron enough help—the last team he played for prior to "The Decision."

He took his "talents to South Beach" for an opportunity to win "not five, not six..." titles with Wade and Bosh, both of whom were lackluster in these finals.

Bosh averaged 11.3 points and 4.7 rebounds over the last three games. Wade scored 21 points on 7-of-25 shooting in Games 4 and 5 combined.

 

Unsung Heroes

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

On a team that had nine players who averaged at least eight points a game during the regular season, there are plenty of options for unsung heroes for San Antonio.

In this series, it was Splitter and backup point guard Patty Mills.

Mills played every second he was on the floor like the Looney Tunes' Tasmanian Devil, which is appropriate since Tasmania is part of the commonwealth of his native Australia.

Even when he wasn't scoring, Mills' hustle served as a spark for everyone else on the Spurs. And when he was scoring, Miami couldn't do anything to stop him.

Such was the case in Game 5, when he blew up for 17 points, hitting 5-of-8 three-point attempts.

Splitter was big in the sense that he wasn't affected by the lineup change that sent him to the bench. His energy both on and from the bench in spite of a demotion was exemplary of what the Spurs stand for: team first.

 

Game 1 and 2 Takeaways

Chris Covatta/Getty Images

The biggest story for Game 1 was of course the the air conditioning being out at the AT&T Center, and LeBron's late-game exit with cramps.

The game was tight at the time of LeBron's departure, but San Antonio immediately began pulling away when he hit the bench.

It wasn't difficult for people to follow the thread from cause to effect on that one, and LeBron obviously took a lot of heat for not being able to finish Miami's 110-95 loss.

He responded to the criticism by blowing up in Game 2 with 35 points and 10 rebounds, leading his Heat to their only victory of the series by a final score of 98-96.

By beating the Spurs in San Antonio, Miami stole home-court advantage, and most thought they were in the driver's seat for the rest of the series.

 

Game 3 and 4 Takeaways

Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Any hope Heat players, coaches and fans had following Game 2 was quickly squashed when the Spurs dismantled the Heat in two straight contests in Miami.

In Game 3, San Antonio broke an NBA Finals record by shooting 75.8 percent from the field in the first half. The offense looked how a world-class orchestra sounds, with every instrument tuned to perfection.

Miami was helpless in trying to rotate to the open men that were inevitably found by San Antonio's crisp passing on every possession.

The Heat made a run in the second half to cut a 24-point lead down to seven, but the hole they were in was just too deep. San Antonio regained control and wound up winning 111-92.

The Spurs didn't shoot the ball as well in Game 4, but somehow seemed even more control, as they cruised to a 107-86 victory.

At that point, Wade really started to look like the pace of the game had passed him by. He couldn't keep up with Mills or Danny Green as a defender and he could barely score to save his life on the other end. He finished 3-of-13 in that game, and it sadly served as a precursor to his Game 5.

 

Game 5 Takeaways

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Heat started Game 5 red hot, jumping out to a 22-6 lead. LeBron looked sharp, scoring 17 of Miami's 29 first-quarter points.

Then, San Antonio's offense started clicking once again, and the feeling that Miami had a chance vanished fairly quickly.

The Spurs outscored the Heat 55-29 in the second and third quarters, and they were able to win the game in cruise control down the stretch.

 

MVP Analysis

When the Spurs acquired the then-19-year-old Leonard on draft night in 2011, surely nobody could've predicted that he would be the Finals MVP just three years later.

As a player who wasn't highly recruited out of high school, had a solid college career at a mid-major school and was drafted outside the lottery, Leonard has already demolished all expectations.

Not only did he lead a team packed with legendary veterans like Duncan, Parker and Ginobili, he outplayed the best player in the world for three straight games.

Anyone who thought at any point over the last few years that this team's title window was closing probably wasn't factoring in the meteoric rise of Leonard.

With him on board, San Antonio's future may be as bright as any in the league.

 

Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewDBailey.

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