Utterly unpredictable from game to game, quarter to quarter.
The door was seemingly slammed shut by San Antonio… yet somehow reopened and slammed shut by Miami.
Here are five everlasting memories of the phenomenal basketball from one of the most inspirationally played championship series ever:
Tim Duncan played his heart and soul out but he, along with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the other pieces of the Spurs’ nucleus, all know: Despite their all-out effort, they needed to execute even better than they did to come away with this series.
In spots, they all played well.
But as a whole they were consistently inconsistent when it mattered most.
Especially damaging were Ginobili’s frustrating 9-point, 8-turnover showing in Game 6 and Parker’s 9-for-35 shooting in Games 6 and 7 combined.
To overcome Miami’s desperate hunger and relentless drive, San Antonio needed a better performance from its star players.
And they didn’t get it.
It’s not as if they completely melted down — though a case can be made that two missed free throws, one by Ginobili and one by Kawhi Leonard, were the ultimate killers late in Game 6 –but the inability to slam the door shut combined with the Heat’s never-say-die attitude proved to be a recipe for disaster for San Antonio, and will be remembered as such.
4. Role players for both teams stepped up: Danny Green broke Ray Allen’s NBA Finals record for 3-pointers made by shooting 25-for-38 (65.7%) through the first 5 games of the series, while playing quality defense (especially in transition on James).
The fact that he was in the hunt – and favorite, after Game 5 – for NBA Finals MVP tells you all you need to know about Green’s shooting display. His numbers in Games 6 and 7 (1 for 7, then 1-for-12) showed what the pressure of a closeout game can do to a young player whose coach rode him too long.
Gary Neal had his moment in Game 3, as he poured in 24 points (9-for-17 FG, 6-for-10 3FG), helping San Antonio to a lopsided 38-point, 113-77 win.
In that same contest, Mike Miller barely grazed the rim during his 5-for-5 performance that went overlooked, due to Miami’s lack of effort and focus at both ends.
In Games 2, 6 and 7, Mario Chalmers poured in 19, 20 and 14 points, respectively, on a combined 19-for-38 (50%) from the field.
Think he complements his superstar teammates well?
And lastly, after struggling mightily (shooting nearly 20% in the playoffs from beyond the arc), Shane Battier stole the show in Game 7 with a Mike Miller-esque closeout to the series. Battier’s 6-for-8 performance, with a 5-for-5 start, was the perfect remedy to forget about his dreadful shooting stretch that earned him a string of DNP-CDs.
The role players in this series had their moments, but when it came down to it, the superstars claimed the day.
Through injury or not.
Even through intense pain, one of the most unselfish superstars in NBA and team sports history just added to his storied lore in Miami.
“We know what he was dealing with,” said Spoelstra. “Really, he should be commended for being out there and doing whatever it takes, putting himself out there for criticism, possible criticism, because he wasn’t 100%. And he just helped us win. That was the bottom line. It was a selfless effort for two months. And some players probably wouldn’t have played. He sat out the Milwaukee game (Game 4), and from that point on, he said, ‘I don’t care. It’s not going to get better. I’m just going to be here for you guys. I’ll play all the way through and I’ll take whatever happens from the media, but I’m going to be out there helping in any way I can.'”
Wade wasn’t only battling his own body; he met an intelligent and smothering defensive effort head on.
“They tried to bury Dwyane, but he kept pushing open that coffin door,” said Shane Battier after Game 7. “And that’s Dwyane Wade. You really can’t define him by stats. He’s a competitor, a fighter. And when it counts most, he’ll be there.”
Tim Duncan called Wade’s 23-point, 10 rebound Game 7 performance “Great… Just found a way to get it done.”
“He didn’t wait,” said LeBron James, referring to the decisive finale. “He had I think five or six one‑on‑one iso situations, jumpers. He was in attack mode all night. He had 10 rebounds. He had 23 points. He had two blocked shots. I think one of the most important plays of the game, that he didn’t even make, was his attack at the rim when he tried to dunk on Tim Duncan, and Tim Duncan got a piece of it. It just showed at that point you knew that this was the D‑Wade that we’ve all wanted to see. What can you say? He’s a three‑time champion, gold medalist, Finals MVP. He’s one of the greatest two‑guards, one of the greatest players the NBA has ever seen.
“He continues to add to his résumé.”
That, he’s most certainly done.
And rest, he most certainly will.
“I talked to my knees today,” said Wade. “We had a conversation and I told them, I said, ‘Listen, both of you guys, y’all can give me one great game, you’ll have a great summer.’ So I’m going to treat my knees very well this summer.”
After capturing his third championship, he – they – have earned it.