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NBA FINALS

Five takeaways from Heat-Spurs in Game 7

June 21, 2013|By Ben Bolch
  • Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Norris Cole celebrate the Heat's second consecutive NBA title after defeating the Spurs, 95-88, in Game 7.
Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Norris Cole celebrate the Heat's… (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images )

1. This was the best NBA Finals since the Lakers beat the Detroit Pistons in seven games in 1988. That series also featured an epic final two games, with the Lakers repeating as champions after they edged Detroit by one point in Game 6 (after the Pistons were ahead by three with a minute to play) and by three points in Game 7 (fulfilling the championship promise of Coach Pat Riley, who uttered the 1980s version of “Not one ...” after the Lakers polished off the Boston Celtics the previous year). There were crazy finishes, legacy-cementing performances, premature yellow rope, wild momentum swings, disappearing acts, soul-crushing mistakes and early-departing fans. But enough about Game 6. Outgoing Commissioner David Stern couldn’t have scripted a better Finals sendoff had he commandeered the writing staff from “Mad Men.”

2. You can either love him or hate him, but you have to respect LeBron James. The game’s best player continued to distance himself from the disastrous “The Decision” (though wasn’t it curious how ESPN went dark immediately after Bill Simmons was preparing to address that 2010 debacle?). James had a pair of triple-doubles and was a jump-shooting marvel in Game 7, making five three-pointers on the way to 37 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals. His jumper with 27 seconds left and two free throws four seconds later secured Miami’s 95-88 victory. Nobody can say he was too passive or shrunk in the big moments. He also continued to nudge his way into the best-player-ever discussions now that he has multiple championships to go with his four MVP awards.

3. Who needs Chris Bosh, Ray Allen and Mike Miller when you have Shane Battier? Bosh, Allen and Miller were scoreless, combining to miss all 14 of their shots (wait, Miami still won the game?). Bosh’s play was particularly horrendous, the forward-center trying to break out of his slump by taking a three-pointer late in the game. (Andrew Bynum would be proud.) But Battier offset his teammates’ shortcomings, making his first five three-pointers and finishing six of eight from beyond the arc. This after making only six of 19 three-pointers in the first six games of the series. Way to never give up.

4. Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili probably have a few regrets, and Gregg Popovich should too. Duncan was despondent after missing a hook shot and a tip-in in the final minute that could have tied the score, and Ginobili had another late-game gaffe with a bad pass that was stolen by James with 23 seconds left. But at least they were in the game. Parker wasn’t even on the court for the possession that resulted in Ginobili’s turnover, another head-scratching move by Popovich, who somehow left the cold-shooting Danny Green on the floor. Yes, Parker made only three of 12 shots and looked as old and immobile as a petrified forest from the opening tip, hardly showing the brilliance that carried the Spurs earlier in the series, but he has to be on the court with the season on the line. Now it’s time to ponder whether Ginobili should return after a largely forgettable playoffs that may have accelerated his retirement and the end of San Antonio’s Big Three era.

5. And to think that UCLA didn’t want Kawhi Leonard. It was “The King” versus the kid from King, and the 21-year-old Leonard was hardly outclassed. The small forward from King High in Riverside was the breakout star of the Finals, playing lockdown defense for extended stretches against James and Dwyane Wade while grabbing tons of rebounds and becoming an unexpected force on offense. Leonard had 22 points and 11 rebounds in Game 6, followed by 19 points and 16 rebounds in Game 7. The future face of the Spurs is a largely expressionless one framed by corn rows and an angular jaw line. We just saw the start of something special here.

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