High five: Spurs cruise to another NBA title
SAN ANTONIO -- As it turns out, the expiration date for a dynasty is more flexible than many believed.
Years after the NBA punditry determined that San Antonio was too old to remain contenders for a championship, the Spurs were spry enough to win their fifth title in 15 years, defeating the Miami Heat 104-87 Sunday to win the NBA Finals four games to one.
San Antonio was on the verge of winning the championship last season but lost Games 6 and 7 in Miami, the former after blowing a five-point lead in the final 28 seconds. It was the Heat's second straight title.
"We were so close last year," Spurs guard Tony Parker said. "We wanted to redeem ourselves. This title is the sweetest one."
San Antonio, trailing 22-6 in the first quarter, responded by outscoring Miami 53-20 during a long stretch that extended into the second half.
Forward Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 22 points and 10 rebounds, and he was selected the Finals' Most Valuable Player. Leonard, 22, averaged nine points in the first two games but 24 over the next three.
"I had a great group of guys pushing me," Leonard said. "They told me I had to be aggressive every night for us to win the series."
Guard Manu Ginobili added 19 points, and forward Tim Duncan scored 14.
Parker missed his first 10 shots -- he was scoreless late in the third quarter -- but hit his next seven and finished with 16 points. His backup, Patty Mills, scored 17, including 14 in the third quarter.
The Spurs led handily before Parker scored a point, showing something people saw from them all season.
"This is a team," Ginobili said. "That's what makes it so nice."
San Antonio's four victories were by an average of 18 points.
"It was exquisite basketball," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said of the Spurs. "Ball movement, player movement, unselfish basketball."
Forward LeBron James led Miami with 31 points and 10 rebounds, but once again, he did not receive much help. Center Chris Bosh was the Heat's second-highest scorer with 13 points, and guard Dwyane Wade finished with 11. Bosh and Wade combined to hit 10 of 26 shots.
The Heat failed to score during the first four minutes of the second half.
Fans and media can debate whether the Spurs are a true sports dynasty because they never won championships in successive seasons, but they earn points for longevity. Duncan, 38, has been around for all five championships, the first of them in 1999.
During this year's Finals, Duncan set all-time NBA marks for postseason minutes played and playoff double-doubles -- in his case, points and rebounds.
Ginobili, 36, and Parker, 32, were key cogs for each of the Spurs' past four championships, including 2003, 2005 and 2007.
The Spurs led 47-40 at halftime Sunday after trailing by 16 points in the first quarter.
James ignited the fast start for the Heat, scoring 17 of Miami's 29 first-quarter points. San Antonio, in addition to being unable to stop James, missed 10 of its first 11 shots.
The Spurs recovered sufficiently to cut the deficit to seven after the first quarter, and then they really rallied.
Leonard scored a steady 15 in the first half. Ginobili scored eight in the second quarter to finish the half with 14.
The Spurs were on their way to grabbing the championship that they let slip away last season.
"Last year's loss was devastating," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "For the group to have the fortitude that they showed to get back to this spot I think speaks volumes about how they are constituted and what kind of fiber they have."
The Heat reached the NBA Finals all four seasons since James and Bosh joined the team, winning two titles.
"Take 50 percent in four years in championships any day," James said. "You want to win them all, but that's just the nature of the game."
NOTES: Ray Allen replaced Mario Chalmers at guard in Miami's starting lineup. Allen shot 1-for-8 and scored five points. Chalmers went 2-for-3 and scored eight points. ... San Antonio shot 47.4 percent Sunday, down from the team's 54.2 percent success rate in the first four games, the second-best mark through four games in the Finals in the NBA's shot-clock era (since 1954-55), according to Elias Sports. Included was the 75.7 percent the Spurs shot in the first half of Game 3, an NBA Finals record for any half. The Lakers shot 54.6 through four games in 1984 but lost in seven to the Boston Celtics. ... Before this series, Miami never trailed by two games during F LeBron James' four seasons with the Heat. ... The Spurs won Games 3 and 4 in Miami by a total of 40 points, the largest margin of victory by any team in consecutive NBA Finals road games ever. ... There are a lot of ways to describe the frustration of San Antonio's opponents in the 2014 playoffs. One comes from James, who said, "Any little mistake you make, they make you pay."