Winning one trophy was never going to be enough, nor should it have been. Winning a single championship is reserved for the flash-in-the-pan teams that get hot at the right time, or the team that finally broke through after years of postseason futility.
The Miami Heat are neither of those. They were built to become a dynasty. A dynasty that would rival that of the 1960’s Boston Celtics, the 1980’s Los Angeles Lakers, the Chicago Bulls of the 1990’s, or even the San Antonio Spurs of the 2000’s.
With a second consecutive championship, and third since 2006, in tow, the Heat can begin to accept the fact that they are a living, breathing, thriving NBA dynasty. Three consecutive Finals appearances and the Heat are now the first back-to-back champions since the Lakers won titles in 2009 and ’10.
Unlike those Laker teams, however, it’s unlikely the Heat begin to fall off. Even with a hurting Wade and the age of guys like Ray Allen, Mike Miller and Shane Battier soon to begin playing a factor, the Heat is still the best team in the NBA now, and will be next year because of one player that no team could ever think of replicating.
He used to be questioned about his resolve and his capabilities under pressure. Now those same people who constantly questioned LeBron James are polishing and spit-shining his second Larry O’Brien trophy, second Finals MVP (as many as Kobe Bryant), and second championship ring, which will be received opening night of the 2013-14 season.
LeBron’s “Enough is enough” ideology came a bit soon when speaking of winning back-to-back games. After two series of going back-and-forth with extremely worthy opponents, the Heat were finally able to break through for a 95-88 victory over a never-say-die, mechanically-perfect San Antonio Spurs team that will be kicking itself for letting go of the rope too soon.
But what could they do when LeBron “What’s a clutch gene” James is going off for 37 points (his highest point total of the entire postseason) on 12-of-23 shooting, hitting five three-pointers, finally converting the open mid-range and three-point looks the Spurs have given him all series, grabbing 12 rebounds, dishing out four assists and holding Tony Parker to a mere 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting.
Enough is enough was right. James was sick of having his jumper disrespected. Game 7 was a culmination of an entire series’ worth of hesitating and tentativeness to take the open jumpers he had been making all season.
Instead of forcing, LeBron sat back and made San Antonio pay for giving him a cushion that reminded us of how teams used to play Rajon Rondo before he acquired a consistent jumper.
It was the third time in the Finals LeBron went off for 30 or more points. After averaging only 17 points per game through the first three games of the series, LeBron would drop a cool 32 points per over the final four games, including finishing with at least 30 points in three of those contests.
Clutch enough for you, yet? James would average 25 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals per, while shooting 45 percent from the field and 35 percent from beyond the arc.
Oh, and he also had the dagger on a 20-foot jumper that extended Miami’s two-point lead with 30 seconds left to four. You know? The usual LeBronish stuff.
I can go on, but LeBron deserves an entire article on his own, so we’ll polish the pole later.
Even with LeBron having an incredible game, it’s almost a miracle to see the Heat pulled out a victory when looking at their box score. Only five different players scored a basket, while Chris Bosh, Ray Allen and Mike Miller combined to shoot 0-of-14 from the field and 0-of-7 from beyond the arc.
None of those players scored and we can’t even be mad. Bosh and Allen played monumental roles in Miami’s miracle Game 6 comeback and Miller had been one of the few players consistently hitting from the perimeter all series.
It didn’t matter. Miami got contributions elsewhere, including from a laboring Dwyane Wade who finished with an impressive 23 points on 11-of-21 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds. Although he only got to the line for two free throws, his mid-range game was on-point all night.
It took awhile, but he and LeBron finally began to take advantage of the open looks this Spurs team was willing to give up in favor of not allowing a drive.
Wade, and the rest of the Heat, continued their demolition of the ‘Danny Green for Finals MVP’ award. Green went 1-for-12 last night and was 2-of-19 in his final two games after breaking the all-time NBA Finals record for three-pointers in a series.
Meanwhile, the exact opposite circumstances happened to Shane Battier, who put on a Mike Miller Game 5-esque show of his own.
Struggling throughout the postseason with his jumper, he hadn’t converted 30 percent or more of his three-pointers in any series leading up to the NBA Finals, Battier made up for the disappearing act with the most important 6-of-8 three-point exhibition of his life.
He converted his first five three-point attempts. Like I said, Miller-esque. He was long overdue for a big game after such a great regular season was dismissed following three consecutive series of such bad shooting that Battier was actually a DNP-CD for a few games.
The same goes for Chris Andersen, who didn’t play two games of these Finals. He finished with three points on one tip-in last night, grabbed four boards (three offensive) and aided in limiting Tim Duncan as well as anybody could limit the greatest power forward to play the game.
Duncan finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds, but will forever be haunted after missing a chip shot in the final minute that would have tied the game. For the first time in seemingly his entire career, Duncan showcased visible frustration, slapping the court after running back on defense and covering his face with a towel at the next timeout.
Considering some of the shots this Spurs team has made, it was long overdue to begin missing some easy looks.
San Antonio fell down to earth hard the final two games of the series. They managed to shoot only 32 percent on 19 three-point attempts last night and only shot 38 percent overall. Uncharacteristically, they had more turnovers (14) than assists (13).
Miami’s defense can be frightening when it wants to be. Add in some tired and weary legs on the Spurs part and it becomes more understandable how the Heat were finally able to limit a San Antonio team that plays borderline perfect basketball for stretches.
You had to be as close to perfect as they were, in order to pull out a victory. Because nothing about this was easy. “Analysts” just assume that a few talented players on the court wearing the same jersey is enough to get it done, but it’s simply not the case.
Not even close.
No championship team has made the sacrifices and adjustments the Heat have made over the past three seasons to reach this point. The setting aside of egos, the paycuts that possibly add up to $100 million saved, the patience, the ambition and sheer will, the drive, the other sports cliches I can’t think about right now all played as significant a role than the physical part of the game.
How do you not root for this Heat team and LeBron James? What’s it matter if there are three All-Stars and a couple future Hall-of-Famers? Is the point of this game, as well as every other, to win and to have fun while doing so?
Personally, I am ecstatic and not just because I’ve witnessed my team win three NBA championships since I was 16. It’s also because of the great basketball I’m watching and the understanding that there are still players out there who are willing to do whatever it takes for an ultimate goal that has nothing to do with their own individual sense of self.
This Miami Heat team is just as much a team as the Spurs or Indiana Pacers. From LeBron down to Rashard Lewis down to Juwan Howard. Each player has a role and they fill it with a smile and an attitude that is only replicated by the greatest teams that understand what it takes to achieve what you desire most.
And now that it’s all said and done, Joel Anthony can go to sleep knowing that he’s a two-time NBA champion.