2014: Spurs versus Heat (San Antonio’s Sweet Revenge)

Background

The Spurs were seconds away from winning the 2013 NBA championship but lost in heartbreaking fashion in seven games. Regaining their composure, San Antonio marched through the 2014 regular season to a league-best 62 wins, earning Gregg Popovich the Coach of the Year award. In the playoffs, the Spurs survived a scare by beating the Dallas Mavericks in seven games after being down 2-1 due to a Vince Carter game-winner. In the second round, they easily defeated the Portland Trailblazers to advance to their third straight Western Conference Finals. Facing the Oklahoma City Thunder and league MVP Kevin Durant, San Antonio won the series in six games despite dropping the middle two road games and advanced to their second straight NBA Finals, making repeat appearances in the championship series for the first time in franchise history.

The Heat came off their repeat championship looking to accomplish an improbable “Three-Peat.” Injuries held Dwyane Wade out of 28 games in the regular season, but Miami still reeled off 54 wins, enough for the number two seed back East. In the playoffs, the Heat easily swept the Charlotte Bobcats before defeating the Brooklyn Nets in five games in the conference semifinals. In their fourth straight Eastern Conference Finals, facing the top-seeded Indiana Pacers, Miami lost game one on the road, but recovered to win three straight to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. The Heat lost a close game five but advanced after a game six victory at home. Their dream of winning a third straight championship was intact as Miami reached their fourth straight NBA Finals, a feat not accomplished since the Boston Celtics from 1984-1987.

Lineups

The Spurs’ starting back court remained identical to the previous season with Tony Parker at point guard and sharpshooter Danny Green at shooting guard. Kawhi Leonard started up front at small forward alongside future Hall-of-Famer Tim Duncan at power forward. Boris Diaw moved up to start at center for most of the NBA Finals games.

Off the bench, San Antonio used Patty Mills as the backup point guard and Manu Ginobili as the primary backup on the wing. Three-point specialist Marco Belinelli, provided further depth on the wing, and Tiago Splitter became the backup big man in the NBA Finals. Players who played sparingly in the championship series include Aron Baynes, Jeff Ayres, Matt Bonner and Cory Joseph.

The Heat continued to use streaky shooter Mario Chalmers at point guard alongside All-Star shooting guard Dwyane Wade. Four-time MVP LeBron James started at small forward in the front court alongside newcomer Rashard Lewis at power forward and fellow All-Star Chris Bosh at center.

Miami’s bench was much thinner, with Norris Cole serving as the backup point guard and Ray Allen providing depth on the perimeter. Chris Anderson continued to play the role of backup big man in the post. Despite starting in previous seasons, Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem saw their roles diminish. Other players who saw few minutes in the Finals include James Jones, Michael Beasley, Toney Douglas, and Greg Oden.

Game One: Heat 95, Spurs 110

Ginobili and Allen came out hot, combining for six three-pointers early to keep their teams close. Bosh converted a four-point play early in the fourth to give the Heat a seven-point advantage, their biggest of the night, but Danny Green came alive down the stretch with 11 points in the quarter to bring the Spurs back. LeBron left the game due to cramps late in the period while San Antonio made timely three’s to seize control and finish with a game one victory. Duncan and Ginobili both turned in double-doubles and Parker scored 19 points of his own as the Spurs again held a 1-0 series lead. James scored a game-high 25 points in the Miami loss.

Game Two: Heat 98, Spurs 96

The two teams entered halftime tied, and the second half saw a number of lead changes as the Heat and Spurs traded runs. Late in the fourth, James found Bosh in the corner for a three to reclaim the lead, and a lay-up from Wade with nine seconds to go sealed the win for Miami. LeBron scored a game-high 35 points, and Bosh, Wade, and Lewis combined for 46 points of their own. Parker, Ginobili, and Duncan combined for 58 points, but the series was now tied 1-1 headed back to Miami.

Game Three: Spurs 111, Heat 92

LeBron jumped out early with 14 first quarter points, but Kawhi Leonard (16 points) and the Spurs were red hot to start as they poured in 41 points on 87% shooting in the opening period after Ginobili’s buzzer-beater three. The Heat trailed by 21 at the half but came back in the third to cut the lead to seven before San Antonio again answered in the fourth to complete the blowout victory. Leonard led all scorers with 29 points, and Parker, Duncan, and Green combined for 44 of their own. Wade and James combined for 44 points, but Miami was no match for the Spurs’ offensive execution and now trailed 2-1.

Game Four: Spurs 107, Heat 86

The Spurs again dominated early with precision passing and execution on offense, building a 19-point lead in a first half that featured a tremendous put-back dunk by Leonard. The Heat cut the lead to 13 behind James’ 19 third quarter points, but San Antonio again pulled away in the fourth and blew Miami out to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. Leonard delivered 20 points, 14 rebounds, 3 steals, and 3 blocks to lead the Spurs along with Parker’s 19 points and Mills’ 14 off the bench. LeBron led all scorers with 28 points, but the Heat now faced elimination on the road with game five in San Antonio.

Game Five: Heat 87, Spurs 104

Miami led early 22-6, but the Spurs responded late in the second quarter with a 14-0 run that saw them take the lead on a transition three from Leonard. Mills and Ginobili were on fire off the bench with a combined 36 points and eight three’s as San Antonio blew the game open in the second half. LeBron scored a game-high 31 points, but Wade and Bosh struggled from the field as the Heat lost the series in five games. Kawhi, with a team-high 22 points and 10 rebounds in the clincher, was named the Finals MVP as the Spurs won the franchise’s fifth NBA championship and their first since 2007.

Aftermath

In 2015 the Spurs set off looking for a repeat title. Kawhi Leonard earned the Defensive Player of the Year award, and San Antonio won 55 games but finished in seventh in a tough Western Conference. The Spurs fell in a seven-game first round series to the Los Angeles Clippers to ruin the hopes of repeating.

After losing in the 2014 NBA Finals, the Heat lost a key contributor when four-time league MVP LeBron James left in free agency to rejoin his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. Miami would struggle in 2015 due to injuries to Wade and Bosh, finishing with only 37 wins and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

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