There will be no “three-peat” for the “Big Three.”
Despite a cold start to Game Five, the San Antonio Spurs went on a big run and didn’t look back, mainly behind excellent precision from three-point range, to close out the Miami Heat in the best-of-seven 2014 NBA Finals on Sunday night at AT&T Center, 104-87.
It’s the fifth NBA title for the Spurs since 1999, all coming with the tandem of head coach Gregg Popovich and big man Tim Duncan. This title might feel the most fulfilling for San Antonio, considering they lost to Miami in 2013, and in gut-wrenching fashion.
The Spurs trailed 19-5 to start the game, but climbed back to end the quarter on a 17-10 run. San Antonio would continue to apply the pressure the rest of the way. San Antonio would go on to convert 12 of their 25 three-point shots, and shot 47.4 percent overall from the field. They limited Miami to just 29 total points in the second and third quarters.
It was a typical dominating effort by the Spurs. Where the Spurs are perceived to lack in talent and glitz, they more than make for with teamwork. San Antonio seemed to outsmart, out-pass, and out-hustle Miami. While the Heat seemed to rely on the dynamic trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to win, the Spurs found a way to thrive with role players like Kawhi Leonard, Boris Diaw, Danny Green, Patty Mills, and Tiago Splitter to compliment Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
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Fittingly, it was Leonard, not one of the Spurs' version of the "Big Three," who would earn the Most Valuable Player honors.
"I had a great group of guys behind, pushing me," said Leonard, who is considered one of the most soft-spoken players on the team, and perhaps the league.
While presenting the award to Leonard, ESPN's Stuart Scott would tell him, "It's O.K. to smile."
Leonard finished Game Five with 22 points, after scoring 20 points in Game Four, and 29 in Game Three.
The title must feel particularly special for Popovich. The often curt head coach recently stated that he wants to keep coaching despite his lenghty and successful resume. With five titles, he strengthens his claim as among the most successful coaches in history.
Duncan spoke of the team's persistence after the game, and how Popovich brings fire every season.
Celebrating their championship after the game, cameras caught Popovich hugging Leonard, and the long-time coach was heard telling the young forward that "this is what it's all about -- hard work."
Duncan joins elite company with his fifth title. Duncan has now tied the total of Magic Johnson, and is one short of Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell remains the biggest winner of all-time with 11 titles.
The large question after the Finals is what's next for James, Wade, and Bosh. The trio may consider moving on from the Heat as free agents. In four seasons together, the Heat made four appearances in the Finals, and won two championships.