For the second straight year, the Miami Heat are NBA Champions. Regular season record of 66-16 (Postseason of 16-7), but the wins didn’t come so easily. Although they went on to win 27 consecutive games during the regular season, their postseason run was anything but easy. True, they ran over the Bucks and made quick work of the Chicago Bulls, but Indiana gave the Heat everything they could handle in the Eastern Conference Finals.
With DWade on one knee for most of the playoffs, and Chris Bosh a non factor in most of this series because of the size of Hibbert and West, LeBron James carried nearly the whole load as he had to as Paul George and Roy Hibbert emerged as a soon to be superstars. It took a buzzer-beating lay-up in Game 1, a Magic Johnson-esque performance in Game 3, and a dominant game 5 to even give the Heat a fighting chance. Then in Game 7, backs against the wall, future of the Big 3 in jeopardy (how many times have we uttered that phrase), Dwyane Wade and Lebron James put on a Big 2 performance that we were accustomed to seeing blowing the Pacers out in Game 7 to move onto the Finals.
However, the Heat’s next test would be Ole Reliable, the San Antonio Spurs. As I’ve stated all year, the Spurs are the only team fully equipped to beat the Heat in a 7 game series. They have the best coach in the NBA in Greg Popovich, the best PG in Tony Parker, and arguably the best big man of all time in Tim Ducan. Then if you throw in a less-erratic Manu with those young disciplined role-players of Green, Leonard, and Neal, the Spurs could easily go toe to toe.
My prediction proved to be extremely accurate for most of this series. While the Pacers played a physical game with the Heat, the Spurs game was completely mental. They made LeBron James and Wade jump shooters by packing the paint. Then, offensively they attacked Chris Bosh and Chalmers with Parker and Duncan in the paint. Then, Danny Green looked like the second coming of Reggie Miller in MSG for most of the series shattering Ray Allen’s record for most threes in a NBA Finals (Sorry Knick fans). Spurs had a 3-2 lead after 5 and up 5 with 28 seconds to go. The Big 3’s future was in question (where have I heard this before, oh) Wade was washed up, Bosh was useless, Lebron may be destined to just one title… then the craziest stretch in NBA Finals history happened.
LeBron nails a three to cut it to a 2 point lead for SAS. Heat quickly foul the 21 year old Leonard who in my opinion was the Finals MVP for the way he took LeBron head-on. However, the young rising-star splits the pair, which opened the door ever-so slightly for the Heat. Next, Popovich made his biggest mistake of the Finals, subbing Duncan out on the final Heat possession. Next, LeBron barely touches the rim on his three with 10 seconds left. Yep, it’s all over. Break up the Big 3. Fire Erik Spolestra. LeBron cant do it again…. Unfortunately for the Spurs, 10 seconds was just long enough for the second coming of Jesus… Jesus Shuttlesworth that is.
Chris Bosh grabs the offensive rebound, passes it out to Allen who runs back behind the 3 point line, and well, you know the rest. Heat force OT and ultimately win Game 6 thanks to a costly Ginobli turnover (Hmm, also familiar) and a Chris Bosh block of Danny Green as the time expired to force Game 7.
The biggest question entering Game 7, how could the Spurs rebound (no pun intended) from a choke job in Game 6? That was answered very early. Wade and James came out and let it be known that this was their game to lose. They combined for 29 first half points, yet only led by 2 at halftime. Midway by the third quarter, the Spurs grabbed control of the game and looked like they would go into the fourth with the lead. However, Battier and Chalmers would be heard as well. Battier hit a 3 late in the third quarter to slow the Spurs’ run and Chalmers hit a buzzer-beating 3 to give the Heat a 1-point lead heading into the fourth. That’s all the Heat needed as Wade, James, Chalmers, and Battier scored every point in the fourth. However, those Spurs continued to fight off Father Time as they chased that 5th ring. As we all know, Father Time is undefeated and always gets the last word. Duncan missed a routine hook shot over the shorter defender in Battier and the simple put back that would’ve tied the game which had to be attributed to fatigue for the 37 year old. LeBron James ultimately closed the door with a CLUTCH jumper coming off the screen with less than 30 seconds left combined with a late turnover from Ginobli (Must be DeJa Vu) and FT’s from Wade to secure the second straight championship for the Heat and James’ second Finals MVP.
The Pacers and partially the Bulls exposed the Heat’s main weaknesses, size and physicality while the Spurs played a mental game forcing James and Wade to only operate on the perimeter and not the paint where they always succeed. Boozer, Noah, West, and especially Hibbert are not going anywhere. They are rough, physical, strong big men and they stop the Heat’s ability to play their best offense, small ball. Wade and James wont turn into Reggie Miller and Ray Allen over the offseason (For the NBA’s sake, I hope not then it might be 7 championships). The East will be severely better next year with the return of Granger, Rose, Rondo, and a desperate Knick team, and the West will be strong again with the Thunder, Grizzlies, Warriors, Clippers, and that other team in Los Angeles.
This offseason, the Heat must go out and find a big time center and add more young shooters to their bench as Allen, Miller, and Battier aren’t getting any younger. I believe Pat Riley and Mickey Arison won’t look to break up the Big 3, but if the chance presents itself to acquire an amazing big man or two, they wouldn’t mind moving their only trade asset in Chris Bosh. If Wade and James improve their perimeter shooting, and Wade gets a nice referral from Kobe Bryant for an operation in Germany, I don’t see why the Heat wouldn’t win not 1, not 2, but 3 titles in four years.