I am a big man and know when I am wrong. I knew the Spurs are good, but I did not expect them to embarrass the Heat the way they did in this series. I knew the Spurs could shoot. I knew that defending the 3 point shoot is the Achilles heel of the Miami Heat. What we saw this series was a team that has built their foundation on rocks, while another built theirs on sand. The result is the San Antonio Spurs winning their 5th championship in 15 years with the same core of players for most of it. Phil Jackson does not believe that they are a dynasty, but I will beg to differ.
They won with their experience. The Spurs have had a more difficult trip to the Finals than the Miami Heat. The Heat had no real competition in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile Spurs had to play very good teams, including an equally experienced team in the Mavericks who pushed the Spurs farther than any team has, A young and dangerous Portland Trailblazers, and The adored Oklahoma City Thunder.
So when I hear that the Heat lost because they were “gassed” and tired I need to laugh. Yes, the Heat have been to the finals 4 straight years. However one of those season was shortened, and they did not play any 7 games series this post season. To put it in comparison, the Heat played a 7 game series before playing the Thunder and winning that championship 2 years ago. Last year the Heat played back to back 7 game series and won the championship. Matt told you guys that Eric Spolstra was not a very good coach.The Heat had a lot of time to rest, and to me it was not a matter of being tired but rather both utilization of players and weak coaching.
The Spurs are the definition of experienced to the point where Greg Popovich trusts his team enough to leave Tim Duncan or Tony Parker out in critical moments. The experience comes into play when you are talking about something as simple as rotations. The experience comes into play when talking about patience. In the beginning of game 5, Miami came out swinging and they were swinging to land a blow. They jumped to a quick lead, to which the Spurs patiently chiseled their way back into the game by slowing getting bucks in the paint. The kept their heads as the Heat were Alley-ooping and Lebron looked like he was going to score 60 points. The Heat where playing off emotion. Emotion fades, but patience stays.With the tough defense and passing, the Spurs clawed back into the game with ease almost like clock work. It takes a team with the amount of chemistry and wisdom to pull that off. You can’t buy that kind of experience.
They won with their Offense. The Spurs did not score the most in the post season nor did they defend the best. The Spurs are the champions because of how well they passed the ball. Coming into the post season, the Spurs were first in assists per game. (25.2 PG) While it did not translate to putting up the most points, the ball very close to 40% from the 3 point line. That is still lethal. The Spurs also translated defense into offense, often beating the Heat on the fast break. The Heat were no match for the Spurs in the paint, as the Spurs dominated on both defensive and offensive rebounds and the post presence of Splitter and Duncan was a problem.
The Spurs broke down the Heat’s defense frequently. Yes the Heat seemed uninspired for majority of the series, yet more importantly they could not defend. Anybody. They could not stop Duncan. When Tiago Splitter came in, they could not slow him down. Leonard gained steam in-game 3 and never slowed down. Patty Mills was instant offense off the bench. Danny Green made shots when it counted the most. Boris Diaw forced his defender to leave the paint, often. His passing was also on full display. Tony Parker seems to close gaps and close games. but most of all, Manu Ginobili finally came to play, taking and making big shots while providing his brand of pesty defense.
Each player could go off at any given moment. Lebron James was left with his shoulders shrugged, because as much as we like to believe, he can’t play all five positions. This series was San Antonio versus Lebron James and it seems all to reminiscent of the last time the Spurs beat Lebron and friends in the Finals…in 2007. Is it me, or does is this off-season starting to feel like deja vu? You have Lebron leading a team of players who don’t live up to their individual expectations and fall short in the finals, leaving Lebron hanging like fresh meat in a dog pound. Call me crazy, but isn’t the situation he is in now becoming the reason he left Cleveland? Which that brings me to my last point.
They won because they wanted it more. Last year left a pretty bad taste in Spurs mouth. They had the series in their hands, and for various reasons lost it. This season has been a march right back to the finals. Make no mistake about it, this series meant as much to the Spurs as it did the Heat. The Heat’s two championships have come with asterisks. One was because the season was shortened, and the other because of some very controversial calls that led to the Heat winning last year in seven games. The Heat had to prove that they could win, and win without “getting all the calls” . (side note kudos to Adam Silver for not having Joey Crawford ref any of Finals games so that it would not be a distraction.) Now we will question for a long time – Does Lebron’s championships count? In the years they have won, they have been unopposed in the East and that is in large due to the fact a lot of great player are all playing on the same team.
Regardless the Spurs had a goal; Beat the Heat. And that was evident from game one of the playoffs against the Mavericks. Their determination and teamwork was inspiring. This team will look different with Duncan retiring and it is going to be tough to repeat without him. The Spurs took a note from Seinfeld and went out on a high note because every game felt intentional.
The result? The Spurs have won 5 titles in 15 years. Tim Duncan can retire a champion and possibly the best power forward to play basketball. Greg Popovich gets to show us again what is in his magical box of coaching as he gets to spend the next couple of years creating a new look for the Spurs. The Spurs need to make some moves to rebuild their team and history shows that they have the tools and people to do so. Needless to say, the better team won this time around no questions asked. This is what an undisputed champ looks like and we tip our hats off to you, San Antonio.