2013: Heat versus Spurs (Miami’s Miraculous Repeat)

Background

The Heat won the 2012 championship and embarked on a quest to repeat in 2013. LeBron James carried the team to a league-best 66 wins, including a 27-game win streak that nearly surpassed the NBA record of 33 games by the 1972 Lakers, earning him his second straight league MVP award for unparalleled efficiency on offense. In the playoffs, Miami easily swept the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. In the conference semifinals, the Heat defeated the Chicago Bulls in five games after surprisingly dropping the first at home. Facing the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron had a game-winning lay-up in the opener to give Miami an early series lead. The teams traded victories over the following six games, with the Heat blowing out Indiana in game seven to advance to the franchise’s third straight NBA Finals looking to repeat as champions.

Although they won the 2007 NBA title, the Spurs struggled in the playoffs in the following years despite success in the regular season, losing in the Western Conference Finals twice (2008, 2012) and falling as the number one seed in the first round of 2011. In 2013, with a wealth of young talent surrounding their veteran stars, San Antonio won 58 games in the regular season and entered the playoffs as the number two seed. In the first round, the Spurs easily swept the Los Angeles Lakers without Kobe Bryant. In the conference semifinals, San Antonio outlasted the sharpshooting Golden State Warriors in six games, reaching the conference finals for the second straight season. Facing the defensive-oriented Memphis Grizzlies, the Spurs won four straight games to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007.

Lineups

The Heat’s starting back court consisted of Mario Chalmers at point guard and All-Star Dwyane Wade at shooting guard. In the front court, Miami used four-time MVP LeBron James and Udonis Haslem at the two forwards before going small in the NBA Finals with Mike Miller on the wing and James at power forward. All-Star Chris Bosh remained the starting center on the roster.

Off the bench, Miami used Norris Cole as the backup point guard and newcomer Ray Allen as the first reserve on the perimeter. Shane Battier moved to the bench to provide depth at forward, and Chris Anderson served as Bosh’s primary backup at center. James Jones, Rashard Lewis, and Joel Anthony played sparingly in the NBA Finals.

In the back court, the Spurs started All-Star point guard Tony Parker alongside young shooting guard Danny Green. Sixth man Manu Ginobili entered the starting lineup mid-series at small forward, pushing young athletic Kawhi Leonard to power forward. By going small, four-time champion Tim Duncan moved to center to replace Tiago Splitter who moved to the bench.

San Antonio’s rotation became shorter after Ginobili entered the starting lineup. Gary Neal served as the primary backup at guard, and Boris Diaw provided depth for the Spurs at forward. Players who rarely saw the floor in the NBA Finals include Cory Joseph, DeJuan Blair, Matt Bonner, Patty Mills, Nando De Colo, and former scoring champion Tracy McGrady.

Game One: Spurs 92, Heat 88

Miami led after each of the first three quarters in game one, but the Spurs refused to fold and kept the game close before taking the lead for good midway through the final period off a basket from Kawhi Leonard. Parker scored 10 of his game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter to carry San Antonio, including a bank-shot with five seconds left in the game to give the Spurs a two possession lead and clinch the victory. Duncan and Leonard both contributed double-doubles as San Antonio took a 1-0 series lead. LeBron had a monster triple-double with 18/18/10, but the Heat surrendered home court advantage.

Game Two: Spurs 84, Heat 103

LeBron struggled early shooting the ball, but he recovered in the second half to help Miami pull away to even the series. The Heat went on a 25-2 run late that featured a statement block by James on a Splitter dunk attempt. Chalmers led all scorers with 19 points, Bosh delivered a double-double, and LeBron finished with 17/8/7 in the victory. Danny Green was the only Spur to shoot well from the field, hitting all five of his three’s and scoring a team-high 17 points as the series now moved to San Antonio tied 1-1.

Game Three: Heat 77, Spurs 113

The Spurs finished off a close first half with a buzzer-beating three by Gary Neal to extend their lead. They ran away in the second half thanks to Neal and Green destroying the Miami defense for a combined 51 points off 13 three’s–the team set a Finals record with 16 makes from downtown. The “Big Three” for the Heat struggled as a whole even though Mike Miller made all five of his three point attempts, and Miami again trailed in the series now down 2-1.

Game Four: Heat 109, Spurs 93

Desperate to avoid a 3-1 series deficit, the Heat stormed back behind a dominant performance from Wade, James, and Bosh. The “Big Three” combined for 85 points and 30 rebounds in the game four victory to tie the series. The Spurs cooled off considerably from downtown, and Duncan’s 20 point outburst wasn’t enough as Miami reclaimed home court advantage with one game remaining in San Antonio.

Game Five: Heat 104, Spurs 114

San Antonio went up early, and a driving lay-up by Parker before halftime gave them a nine-point lead. Miami came back and cut the lead to a single point in the third quarter before the Spurs mounted a run of their own to put the game out of reach in the second half. Green broke Ray Allen’s record for three’s made in a Finals record and finished with 24 points to go along with Parker and Ginobili’s combined 50 points and Duncan’s double-double. Wade and James struggled from the field despite scoring 50 points between them, and the Heat faced elimination now headed back to Miami.

Game Six: Spurs 100, Heat 103 (OT)

Tim Duncan scored 25 of his 30 points in the first half to help San Antonio establish a lead at the break. The Spurs stretched their lead to as much as 13 in the third quarter, but LeBron brought the Heat back in the second half. James had his headband knocked off in the fourth quarter but scored 16 of his game-high 32 points in the period to help Miami retake the lead late. A quick 7-0 run helped San Antonio reclaim a five-point advantage with under a minute, but Ginobili missed a foul shot and James answered with a three to make it a two-point game. With twenty seconds to go, Leonard missed one of two foul shots, and Bosh grabbed an offensive rebound off a miss by LeBron and found a backpedaling Ray Allen for a game-tying three with five seconds left to force overtime. Miami’s defense came up big in the extra period as the Heat prevailed to force a deciding game seven.

Game Seven: Spurs 88, Heat 95

Wade hit a jumper to give Miami the lead just before the half, and Chalmers banked in a three to reclaim a one-point lead at the end of the third quarter. With five three’s in the game, LeBron scored nine of his game-high 37 points in the fourth quarter to help the Heat maintain a slim lead. Leonard delivered 19 points, 16 rebounds, and a huge three late to bring the Spurs within two, but Duncan, despite 24 points and 12 rebounds, missed a hook-shot and tip that could have tied the game. James responded with a jumper to seal the victory as Miami won game seven and clinched their second straight championship. Wade scored 23 points and Battier chipped in six three’s off the bench, and LeBron was named Finals MVP for the second straight year for his superb play.

Aftermath

In 2014, seeking a “Three-Peat,” Miami finished with 54 regular season wins despite Wade missing a large chunk of games due to injury. As the number two seed in the playoffs, the Heat easily swept the Charlotte Bobcats and defeated the Brooklyn Nets in five games. After knocking off the top-seeded Indiana Pacers in six, Miami reached their fourth straight NBA Finals, the first team to do so since the 1987 Boston Celtics.

After suffering a heartbreaking defeat in the 2013 NBA Finals, the Spurs came back determined in 2014 and won 62 regular season games to earn the top seed overall. In the playoffs, San Antonio outlasted the Dallas Mavericks in seven games, defeated the Portland Trailblazers in five, and beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in six games to reach the NBA Finals for the second straight year, the first repeat appearance for the franchise.

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