A year after bitter defeat, Spurs are back on top of the NBA
A year after their heartbreaking seven-game defeat, their only loss in six finals appearances, the Spurs won four routs to deny Miami’s quest for a third straight championship.
“Hard to believe, isn’t it?’’ said Manu Ginobili. “We played at a really high level.’’
Kawhi Leonard, named the finals Most Valuable Player, had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Spurs. San Antonio added this title to ones in 1999, 2003, `05 and `07.
San Antonio rebounded from an early 16-point deficit by outscoring the Heat 37-13 from the start of the second quarter to midway in the third.
The celebration the Heat canceled last season was on by early in the second half Sunday, when the Spurs finished digging their way out of an early 16-point hole and opened another huge lead.
LeBron James had 31 points and 10 rebounds for the Heat.
Tim Duncan and coach Gregg Popovich have been here for all of the championships, and it was the fourth for Tony Parker and Ginobili, who with Duncan are once again the reigning the Big Three in the NBA.
“Just a great team and we do it together,’’ Parker said.
Bosh finished with 13 points and Wade just 11 on 4-of-12 shooting for the Heat, providing James nowhere near the help he needed.
The painful conclusion to last year served as the fuel for this one, powering the Spurs to a 62-win season that topped the NBA and led to a rematch with Miami, the NBA’s first in the finals since Chicago beat Utah in 1997-98.
Round 2 went to the Spurs, but both teams will face challenges if there is to be a third rubber match.
San Antonio will face questions - as it has for years - about the age of its core, and whether Duncan, Ginobili and Popovich want to stick around. The Heat will brace for the potential free agency of James, Wade and Bosh, and will need younger, fresher pieces around the three All-Stars if they all stay.
But this moment belongs to the Spurs. Playing a methodical style for many years that was predicated on throwing the ball to Duncan made San Antonio respected, but never beloved. The Spurs were TV ratings killers, casual viewers finding them not much fun to watch.
But Popovich opened up the offense a few years ago, making the Spurs an easy-to-like, tough-to-beat group that thrives on ball movement and 3-point shooting.
“You showed the world how beautiful this game is,’’ Commissioner Adam Silver told the Spurs during the postgame award ceremony.
A decade and a half after winning their first title in 1999, when Duncan was in his second season, the Spurs remain the NBA’s model organization, a small-market team that simply wins big and hardly ever does it with a high draft pick. Instead, the Spurs found players overseas or in other organizations who would fit the Spurs’ way of doing things and mesh with the Duncan, Parker and Ginobili, the winningest trio in postseason history.