James solidifies legacy as Heat retain NBA title
MIAMI LeBron James had 37 points and 12 rebounds, and the Miami Heat repeated as champions with a 95-88 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.
Dwyane Wade added 23 points and 10 rebounds, and Shane Battier scored 18 points on 6-for-8 shooting from three-point range for Miami. James made five of 10 threes, all while hounding Spurs star Tony Parker on defense to make the Heat the first back-to-back champs since the Lakers in 2009-10.
Tim Duncan had 24 points and 12 rebounds for the Spurs, who were trying to become the first road team to win a finals Game 7 since Washington in 1978. Kawhi Leonard added 19 points and 16 rebounds.
Mario Chalmers scored 14 for Miami.
Parker had 10 points on 3-for-12 shooting and four assists, and Manu Ginobili scored 18 points for the Spurs. San Antonio lost for the first time in five finals appearances.
The Heat led just 72-71 going into the fourth quarter after a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Chalmers. Battier hit his fifth three of the night, and Chalmers scored on a layup for a 79-75 lead with 7:30 to play, but the proud Spurs never faded.
The Spurs missed seven of their first 10 shots and turned the ball over five times in the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter, with the heart-breaking loss in Game 6 finally taking its toll.
Duncan’s turnover led to Battier’s sixth three-pointer, a corner dagger that gave Miami an 88-82 lead with 3:21 to go. The delirious Heat crowd leapt to its feet, sensing another Larry O’Brien trophy presentation in South Beach, and they didn’t sit down for the rest of a thrilling finish.
Leonard’s three made it 90-88, but Duncan missed a putback and James, named the MVP for the second year in a row, knocked down a 19-foot jumper with 27.9 seconds to go, sealing the victory as the fans chanted along to the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” a trademark celebration at American Airlines Arena.
Danny Green, for five games the favorite for finals MVP thanks to his record-setting three-point shooting, missed his first eight shots and finished with five points on 1-for-12 shooting, while Game 6 hero Ray Allen was 0-for-4 with three turnovers for Miami.
The Heat have been to three straight finals, just like they envisioned when Pat Riley brought James, Wade and Bosh together three summers ago. But it’s been anything but easy for the NBA’s latest super team. They lost to Dallas in 2010, suffering the final defeat in Game 6 on their home floor, then rebounded to steamroll the Oklahoma City Thunder last season.
This regular season was shaping up as a coronation more than a competition, with the Heat rattling off 66 victories, including a staggering 27 in a row. They entered the playoffs with an air of invincibility, but were pushed as hard as they’ve ever been.
In the proud Spurs, they faced an aging core that simply wouldn’t give in, which had to make this victory their most satisfying yet.
The Heat were all but eliminated on Tuesday night, down 13 points at the start of the fourth quarter and five with 21 seconds to play, with the home fans streaming out of American Airlines Arena. Then James hit a three, Ray Allen hit another, and the Heat outlasted San Antonio in overtime to keep their hopes of defending their title alive.
“It’s like you have a second chance on life,” Bosh said. “You’re not going to waste it. We were revived. We were dead. We brought ourselves back to life.”
The Heat made the most of the kind of second chance that the Spurs have so rarely given over the years. James found the perimeter shooting that had been lacking for most of the series, hitting consecutive threes in the third quarter to get Miami going after a ragged start.
The reigning MVP also locked down Parker, the focal point of the Spurs offense, forcing him to give the ball up earlier in the shot clock than he wanted.
As the game wore on, the Spurs wore down. Ginobili fumbled an easy pass out of bounds, then threw an errant pass behind Gary Neal, opening the door for James, who hit a 17-foot jumper for an 83-77 lead with 5:41 to play.
Chris Bosh was scoreless with seven rebounds for the Heat.
The Heat were made for moments like this. They were made to be tested. They were assembled to have the talent, the makeup and the swagger to withstand even the proudest challengers. And that’s what they did.
SAN ANTONIO (88)
Leonard 8-17 2-4 19, Ginobili 6-12 4-4 18, Duncan 8-18 8-8 24, Parker 3-12 4-4 10, Green 1-12 2-2 5, Neal 2-7 0-0 5, Diaw 2-2 0-0 5, Splitter 1-2 0-0 2, Joseph 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-82 20-22 88.
James 12-23 8-8 37, Miller 0-5 0-0 0, Bosh 0-5 0-0 0, Chalmers 6-15 1-4 14, Wade 11-21 1-2 23, Allen 0-4 0-0 0, Battier 6-8 0-0 18, Andersen 1-1 1-2 3, Haslem 0-0 0-0 0.
Totals 36-82 11-16 95.
San Antonio 16 28 27 17 — 88
Miami 18 28 26 23 — 95
3-Point Goals—San Antonio 6-19 (Ginobili 2-5, Diaw 1-1, Neal 1-3, Leonard 1-4, Green 1-6), Miami 12-32 (Battier 6-8, James 5-10, Chalmers 1-7, Bosh 0-1, Allen 0-2, Miller 0-4). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—San Antonio 50 (Leonard 16), Miami 54 (James 12). Assists—San Antonio 13 (Ginobili 5), Miami 14 (James, Allen 4). Total Fouls—San Antonio 19, Miami 19. A—19,900 (19,600).