The San Antonio Spurs claimed their 5th NBA title in the last 15 years in a 104-87 win over the Miami Heat
Last year we watched as Ray Allen broke San Antonio hearts with 5.2 seconds left on the clock and send Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals into overtime.
The Heat would go on to clinch that game and the Game 7 in Miami to win their 2nd title in as many years. There was no way the San Antonio Spurs were going to allow anything of the sort happen again this year and it showed in their truly dominant Finals performance.
The Spurs significantly outperformed the Heat in almost every every major statistical category, including averaging a full 14.0 points and 10.2 assists per game more than them over the series.
While the it looked as though we were to be treated to another 7-game epic after they split the first 2 games in San Antonio, the Spurs moved up a gear and thoroughly dominated the next 3 games.
Though the Spurs would never attribute a team success to the work of any one individual, one of the main triggers for the Spurs surge over the last three games was 22 year old Kawhi Leonard, who last was named the NBA Finals MVP last night.
Leonard struggled in the first 2 games, getting into foul trouble on the defensive end while trying to defend LeBron James and being too tentative on the offensive end of the floor, taking only 14 shots over the course of those 2 games.
However Game 3 saw Leonard unleashed as he scored a career high 29 points on 76.9% shooting, while giving James trouble with his stifling defence. Leonard scored over 20 points in both Game 4 and 5 and continued his good work on James on the defensive end of the floor, an effort that eventually saw him receive the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP trophy from Adam Silver.
Poetically, Leonard became the youngest recipient of this award since 1999 when Tim Duncan won it at the age of 23, the moment Spurs dynasty officially began.
The Spurs Finals performance caps off a season that saw them win 62 games in what has become typical fashion for the Spurs. Their simple, passing basketball combined with a selflessness that runs throughout the organisation was the one of the main ingredients in the success they’ve enjoyed this year. The other factor was, of course, the devastating manner in which they lost last year’s Finals.
The team has carried that loss with them all year, both as a burden and as a motivation. The regular season and the play-offs were a means to an end for this team. All year the goal that drove them was to put themselves back into the position that dealt them such a cruel blow last time around. And once they got there they weren’t going to let it happen again.
The relief of having finally exorcised last year’s demons perhaps showed most in Greg Popovich, the man who instills into his team and embodies so many of the values that define San Antonio. Speaking to his team after their win, Popovich said: “I’ve never been more proud of a team nor have I ever gotten more satisfaction from a season in all the years I’ve been coaching.”
What comes next for the San Antonio Spurs is the question now on everybody’s lips. Tim Duncan, the centrepiece of the Spurs success over the last 15 years, can opt out of his contract, presumably to retire, should he choose. While Duncan bowing out at the top of his game would be a perfect ending to what has been a truly spectacular era in the franchises history, there’s little doubt that this team, with many of the key components still in place next year, could be as successful next year as they were this if they wished to chase one final title with the Popovich-Duncan tandem still in order.
However, regardless of what happens next season, the Spurs’ tale of heartbreak has found a resolution and we’ve witnessed a truly special team crowned NBA champions in the process.