The San Antonio Spurs won the 2014 NBA championship on Sunday (Monday in India :P) by defeating two time winners and defending champions Miami Heat 104-87. The Spurs won the best of 7 series by amargin of 4-1.
In a rematch of the last year’s finals, the Spurs put up a dominating performance. Having lost in a heart breaking manner last year, the Spurs seemed determined to stamp their authority on the Eastern Conference Champions, evident by the fact that all 4 of their victories came with a margin of 15 points or more. There had been talk of this series becoming a revenge series for the Spurs and although no notable on court skirmishes took place, no one who saw the series would doubt the intensity with which both the teams, and specially the Spurs, played.
Spurs coach Greg Popovich, widely considered to be one of the best coaches of the modern era, had repeatedly mentioned last year’s loss to the Heat as having inspired the team. The Spurs let go of a 3-2 advantage last year to lose 4-3. In Game 6, they were up 5 with 28 seconds to go before they were buried by a Ray Allen dagger. Have a look –
For the Spurs, this win has the double purpose of solidifying their dynasty in the era of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, while also giving them a potential star for the future in the form of young Kawhi Leonard, who was named Finals MVP, becoming the 3rd youngest player after Magic Johnson and teammate Tim Duncan to get this honour.
The 22 year old out of San Diego State University had shown flashes of brilliance in last year’s finals when he did a stellar job defending LeBron James, arguably the best player on the planet. This time around, he complemented the lock down defence with some solid offence as well. He averaged 17.8 points per game to go with 6.4 rebounds and 1.6 steals. His efficiency was off the charts as he shot over 60% from the floor and an insane 58% from three point land. Oh and he did this as well –
For the Heat it was a rather sombre end to their dreams of a 3-peat. LeBron James played out of his socks in every game but a putrid bench and lack of consistent support from starters denied a third ring to the 4 time MVP. This defeat also raises major offseason questions for Miami, with the Big 3 of James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh all having early termination options on their contracts. They must find a way to keep the big three in South Beach while at the same time retooling the bench for next season.
The Spurs defied all conceptions of age, athleticism and the idea of needing individual effort to win championships by playing a brand of team based basketball. It will be interesting to see whether they can replicate the success next season or age finally catches up with the Spurs and coach Pop.