MIAMI -- It ended as it began, with a brilliant performance by LeBron James, who capped a second straight MVP season with his second straight championship, scoring 37 points, pulling down 12 rebounds and dishing out four assists in a dramatic 95-88 win over San Antonio in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Ladies and gentlemen, a Miami Heat dynasty is born.
The Tao of LeBron. The days of James being unable to win the big one seem so far away, don't they? In what has become a typical James performance, LeBron seized control of the game and wouldn't allow Miami to let it slip away. San Antonio's strategy all series was to let James shoot jump shots, and at times it was effective. But James never lost confidence, never stopped shooting and it was his jumper with less than 30 seconds to play in the fourth quarter that gave the Heat a four-point lead, effectively putting the game away. James's 37 points were his fourth straight 30-plus performance in a Game 7, second most all time to Elgin Baylor. Clutch, anyone?
Opportunities missed. This series won't be easy for the Spurs to forget. After blowing a five-point lead with less than 30 seconds to play in Game 6, San Antonio had several chances to tie or take the lead late in Game 7, but couldn't make a play. Missed shots by Danny Green, turnovers by Manu Ginobili, two point-blank bricks by Tim Duncan -- the Spurs just couldn't make the one play that would put Miami on its heels and force them to play from behind.
A Battier barrage. This had been a nightmare postseason for Shane Battier, who cracked double digits in scoring just once before Thursday night and played less than 10 minutes in each of the first four games of the series. But with Mike Miller struggling, Battier came through, scoring 18 points while making six of his eight three-point attempts. For all the talk of the Big Three, it was free agent acquisitions from the last two summers that saved the season for Miami. There was Ray Allen, whose shooting forced a Game 7, and Battier, who has done the dirty work for Miami all season, playing out of position, coming through in the clincher.
Whither, Danny Green? Green was white hot through the first five games, becoming a strong candidate for Finals MVP. But he left his shooting in San Antonio. He scored three-points (on 1-of-7 shooting) in Game 6 and finished Game 7 with five points, making just one of his 12 shots. Duncan (24 points, 12 rebounds in Game 7) turned back the clock the last two games, but he needed help, and Miami's perimeter shooters, couldn't provide it.
Absentee Parker. Whether it was fatigue or a sore hamstring, Parker finished the series a shell of the player that started it. The burst in his legs was gone. He scored 19 points in Game 6, but needed 23 shots to do it. In Game 7 he was worse, unable to get into the paint as freely as he is used to, finishing with 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting. When he was right, when he was rested, Parker was the best player in this series. Unfortunately for San Antonio, he couldn't be that player in the end.