PHOTOPhotograph by Greg Nelson For Sports IllustratedRocking And Reeling Momentum in sports is a myth, constructed so greater meaning can be attached to the outcome of individual games, and the 2013 NBA Finals exposed the illusion. If anything, the series has proved that momentum is to be avoided because the motivation garnered from failure is a far more powerful force. "You're dealing with people and emotions, not robots," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said between Games 4 and 5. "There's that little spark of intensity or little bit of fear that seems to kick in when you've lost." The Finals proved to be a paradox, a taut series composed of lopsided games. The Heat routed the Spurs, and the Spurs routed the Heat, but not in succession. They were two NBA heavyweights—despite their small-ball schemes—trading knockout punches. The series featured precision ball movement and deadeye three-point shooting, sudden lineup changes and drastic stylistic adjustments, breakout stars and bygone ones. It had everything except a common thread. In one game Dwyane Wade's right knee was ailing, and in the next it was bionic. In one game Tony Parker's right hamstring sent him to an MRI machine, and in another it repeatedly sprang him to the rim. Manu Ginóbili was so inconsequential through four games that he admitted considering retirement. So he started for the first time in more than a year and had 24 points and 10 assists in Game 5, handing the Spurs a 3--2 series lead.The most consistent player was the one who served three stints in the Development League and in 2010 got cut twice in a span of two months. Spurs shooting guard Danny Green took up residence in the zone and stayed there for 10 days, drilling a Finals record 25 three-pointers in just 38 attempts through the first five games. He did it as effortlessly as if he were tossing pennies off the River Walk. Competing Big Threes were overshadowed by a Jeremy Lin--level reject.The Spurs put LeBron James right back in the crucible where he so often finds himself. Flummoxed at times by a sagging defense, which clogged the paint and dared him to let fly, James alternated between halting midrange jumpers and mesmerizing full-court drives. He was solid for a team that requires him to be sublime. The Heat, having won 27 consecutive games in the second half of this season, was unable to take two in a row. Miami's players couldn't sustain momentum, but neither could San Antonio's. They only fed off fear. PHOTOPhotograph by John W. McDonough/Sports IllustratedTHREE KING How warm was Green? He hit 6 of 10 threes in Game 5—and it was only his third-best night from behind the arc. (The free-agent-to-be was 7 for 9 in Game 3 and 5 for 5 in Game 2.)PHOTOPhotograph by John W. McDonough/Sports IllustratedHOPPING MAD A fired-up Wade had no problem elevating on his bad knee in Game 4, torching Tim Duncan and the Spurs for 32 points after scoring just 43 in the first three games.
As SI went to press, the Spurs led the Heat 3--2. For complete coverage of the end of the Finals, from Lee Jenkins and the rest of the SI NBA crew, go to SI.com/nba