Spurs get ultimate revenge by mauling Heat in Finals
SAN ANTONIO -- In case you were wondering, this is what revenge looks like. One year after a heartbreaking seven-game Finals loss to Miami, the Spurs dismantled the Heat in five games. San Antonio cruised to a 104-87 Sunday victory in Game 5, the third straight blowout that clinched the team's fifth title in the Duncan-Popovich era.
This series created a new star (Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard), saw the rise of a pair of supporting players (Boris Diaw, Patty Mills) and reminded the basketball world that age is just a number when the players getting older have the skills of San Antonio's Big Three.
• Start with the star. It's scary to think that, at 22, Leonard is still several years away from his prime. For the third game in a row, Leonard was the best player on the floor for San Antonio, knocking down three's (3-of-4), shooting a high percentage (7-10) and showcasing the offensive talents he is only scratching the surface on. Leonard was his usual self defensively, bodying up LeBron James, forcing James to work for every bucket. After a 17-point first quarter, James scored just 14-points the rest of the way, as the Spurs defense locked up, holding the Heat to 40 percent shooting.
But Leonard... he was incredible. From the raw athlete that Tim Duncan had his doubts about in 2011 to a player on the cusp of star status, Leonard has grown exponentially over the past three seasons. He picked up the Finals MVP and there is no question there will be more hardware to come. Who knows when the trio of Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili will retire, but when they do the future of the Spurs is safe in Leonard's (huge) hands.
• Depth wins again. It's no secret: What San Antonio surrenders in star power to Miami, it makes up for with depth. Once again, the deep bench was a critical factor in a Spurs blowout win. The bench chipped in 47 points for San Antonio. Miami's offered up just 24, a gap that would have been wider had the fourth quarter not turned into garbage time. Mills, the speedy Australian, was a force for the second game in a row, topping his 14 points in Game 4 with 17 (on 6-10 shooting) in Game 5. Diaw, whose presence in the last two games of the conference finals and in the last three in the Finals is arguably the reason the Spurs have been so offensively dynamic, had five-points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich trusts his bench implicitly, and that confidence was evident all series.
• Where was the help? A common theme the last three games has been the disappearance of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Wade had a quiet 11 points (on 4-12 shooting) while Bosh had just 13. The spotlight shines on LeBron James -- it always has and always will -- but Miami's biggest weakness this series was that its stars didn't play like them. Wade lacked any explosiveness and Bosh was a non-factor lingering on the perimeter.
• Passing works. Every high school player and AAU coach should watch tape of San Antonio to see what happens when you can shoot from the perimeter and are willing to pass the ball. The ball movement in this series, as Ginobili said, "was incredible." In Game 5 the Spurs had 25 assists on 37 made shots. The look on Heat players' faces when four, five and six pass possessions led to an open look told the story. San Antonio wasn't just scoring, it was scoring in the most demoralizing way possible.
• A dynasty rolls on. This title was San Antonio's fifth in the Duncan-Popovich era. The Spurs have some key decisions to make (Diaw and Mills are free agents) but there is no reason to believe San Antonio won't be right back here next year, competing for championship number six.
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• TAYLOR: Greatness of Duncan-Popovich lost on them, but not us
• MANNIX: Spurs get ultimate revenge by dismantling Heat in Finals
• Spurs' Leonard named Finals MVP | 'Special' to win on Father's Day
• LeBron on Heat's four trips to NBA Finals: 'We'll take 50 percent'
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