Contrary to popular belief (or chokingly blunt metaphoric comedy titles), there are, in fact, a million and one ways to die in the West. Just ask the Miami Heat. The San Antonio Spurs, who lost so heinously the previous year against the same vain Heat, would remind those paying attention that the West is, by far, the strongest conference in the NBA. The Spurs’ veteran core pulverized the Heat’s younger one into a fine powder, winning their fifth NBA title (fourth-most in NBA history) with an impressive 104-87 win.
Those who tuned in with 5:01 remaining in the third quarter of Game 5 of the NBA Finals must have assumed they were watching the “Game of Thrones” season finale since it appeared that LeBron James and his supporting cast of key players were being brutally murdered by the Spurs.
The Spurs, aggressive in their plight to attack the basket with draconian vigor, had widened their lead to 65-44 after Patty Mills hit his third consecutive three-pointer, which was followed by a Manu Ginobili three. The smoldering sparks of Miami were slowly dying in front of the energetic Texas crowd, their restive and once impassioned tactics fading away into the night with a whimper.
Though one would have never imagined a score like this when witnessing the opening minutes of the game.
Miami (who appeared to be empowered after head coach Eric Spoelstra messed with his starting lineup and started Ray Allen instead of Mario Chalmers) started the game opening a 22-6 lead, their largest of the series. James put up a total of 17 points in the first 12 minutes and was looking to leave an acerbic taste in the mouths of Tim Duncan, Ginobili, and rest of the Spurs. Not having any of it, San Antonio rebuked sharply in the second and caught up with Miami after outscoring them 33-13 since falling behind 22-6 in the first.
Ginobili took matters into his own hands by adding 14 points off the bench, which helped give his Spurs a 47-40 lead before heading into the locker room at halftime. Even though the Argentine was a force to be reckoned with, it would be Kawhi Leonard who would end up forcing nightmares upon James for years to come. The 22-year-old put up 15 points and showed no signs of slowing down after helping hold the Heat to just 11 points in the second.
It was all Leonard and Mills in the third as they assisted their team in outscoring Miami 59-22 while shooting 53.8 percent in the middle of the quarter. San Antonio was up 77-58 heading into the final 12 minutes of its season.
It would be the young Leonard who would take home the title of MVP after all was said and done, an agonizingly bittersweet honor since Leonard tragically lost his own father on Father’s Day years before.
As the confetti fell and swirled about the feet of the winning team and their dedicated fans, Duncan, laconic in this shining moment, raised his arms upon the world’s stage and took in the moment, a powerful gesture that appeared to expunge the pain of last year’s loss.