Amid all of the pressure and criticism, LeBron James and the Miami Heat were able to win their second straight title on Thursday night. The back-to-back champs beat the San Antonio Spurs in Game Seven of the 2013 NBA Finals.
In a series with two evenly matched teams, it seemed only fitting that the winner would be determined in the final seconds. The clubs were neck and neck for almost the entire contest, until the Heat pulled away in the final 30 seconds. Tim Duncan missed a shot at the basket with 48 seconds left that would have tied the game at 90-90. On the ensuing Miami possession, James sealed the victory by hitting a jump shot with 27 seconds remaining.
James’ basket capped off a legendary NBA Finals performance. He finished the game with 37 points, 12 rebounds and four assists. He was named the MVP of the series, averaging 25.3 points, 10.9 rebounds and seven assists per game. He’s the only player to ever average 25-10-7 in the Finals. He also accomplished that feat last year when Miami beat the Oklahoma City Thunder.
After a third consecutive Finals’ appearance and two straight championships, Miami will be the overwhelming favorites to win it all in 2014. However, it won’t be easy for the Heat to accomplish the first three-peat in over a decade.
The Heat were dominant in the regular season, winning 66 games and almost setting a record with their 27-game winning streak. Despite their success through 82 games, Miami was challenged in the playoffs. They lost the first game of their last three series and needed two Game Seven’s to get their second straight ring. If it weren’t for Ray Allen’s clutch three-pointer at the end of Game Six, the Heat would be viewing this season as a disappointment.
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The Spurs pushed the Heat to the brink, but the NBA may be even tougher next year. The Chicago Bulls, who gave Miami trouble when they suffered several injuries, should have a healthy Derrick Rose. The Oklahoma City Thunder will be the favorites in the West with Kevin Durant and a healthy Russell Westbrook.
The biggest threat to a Miami dynasty, though, might be issues with the Miami roster. At times this postseason, James was forced to play like he was back with the Cleveland Cavaliers and carry the team with very little support. Chris Bosh was average, at best, scoring just 12.1 points per game, and Dwyane Wade battled a knee injury for the entire playoffs.
In the end, Wade answered the critics, scoring over 20 points in three of the last four games. In his previous 19 postseason games, he only reached that mark twice. Wade will be 32 next season and there are questions about whether or not he’ll be able to stay injury-free through 82 more regular season games and another playoff run.
Erik Spoelstra may also have to make change the way he uses James and Wade. In playoffs, the Heat were much better with James on the floor and Wade on the bench. Even in the Game Seven victory, James’s plus/minus rating was +8, while Wade finished with a -2.
Miami has some concerns going into the next season, regarding the Big Three. The Spurs and Indiana Pacers proved that they are beatable, and impeding free agency for James, Bosh and Wade will be a subject all year. With the best player in the world on the team, though, the Heat are in a great position to make history in 2014.