LeBron James finally rediscovered his shooting touch to lead his Heat team to a 95 – 88 victory over the San Antonio Spurs and capture back to back NBA championships.
The Spurs’ tactic of giving the ‘King’ room to shoot – a strategy that worked so well in the first six games, ultimately backfired as LeBron poured in 37 points, including going 5 of 10 from the three point line, claiming the Finals MVP award in the process.
It’s a team sport of course and he didn’t do it on his own. Dwayne Wade looked like he was in his early twenties again, such was the speed and power he exhibited as drove again and again into – and through – the San Antonio Spurs defence.
Shane Battier was the surprise contributor, making 6 of 8 shot attempts from beyond the arc for his 18 points off the bench.
It sure feels good to be LeBron right now. “I have no worries!” he jubilantly roared when receiving the weighty silverware. With 2 successes in three consecutive Finals appearances since he teamed up with Bosh and Wade it’s now a question of how many more he gets.
He’s not going anywhere soon; he’s 28 and it’ll be a while until his powers begin to wane.
Bizarrely, Chris Bosh had zero points on 0 for 5 shooting, but that’s not to suggest that he didn’t put his own mark on the game. He hauled in 7 rebounds and for the most part he was consumed with defending Tim Duncan, limiting him to ‘only’ 24 points.
This is a heart-breaking loss for the Spurs and they can’t be blamed for being tempted to play the ‘what if?’ game. What if they had been less sloppy down the stretch in game 6?
What if Tim Duncan hadn’t missed two seemingly easy lay-up attempts in the last minute? What if they had secured home court advantage during the regular season? The disappointment was palpable with the clock running down to zero, the players realising that there was no longer any point in fouling.
When they recover from this they will realise that Miami simply had a little bit extra and that little bit made all the difference. There are positives to take from this, namely Kawhi Leonard’s coming of age performance and the invaluable experience the second year player gained, playing against the world’s best player on basketball’s biggest stage. However, in the immediate aftermath it just seems irrelevant.
That’s the greatest thing about sports. You play to win the game, according to a certain Herm Edwards.
Looking at the bigger picture, it’s no coincidence that it was the two teams with consistent, common sense leadership at the top, and the two teams that shunned greed and put aside their egos that ended up competing for the coveted Larry O’Brien trophy. Wade, Bosh and LeBron could be earning significantly more if they were the star player on their own team; likewise for the Spurs’ big three of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili.
This is why it’s frustrating that Oklahoma City Thunder let go of James Harden, and why it’s unlikely that other contenders like the Knicks or the Clippers will ultimately fall short of the mark; a ‘Big Three’ has become a necessary requirement to win a championship.
There’s winning and then there is misery, Pat Riley once said. The Heat and the Spurs have proven their class, not just over the last couple of weeks but also over the last decade and beyond. Few things are predictable in sport, but this is certain: the Heat will be back next year to try and win again; the Spurs will put the misery behind them to come back next year and… try and win.
image: © Keith Allison