Fifth ring has special meaning for Spurs
28 seconds: The amount of time it took for the Miami to dash San Antonio’s title hopes in 2013.
362 days: How long San Antonio had to wait for sweet redemption.
They say revenge is a dish best served cold
The Spurs made it clear to the media that vengeance was not a motivating factor in this team’s quest for the franchise’s fifth title. But c’mon, clearly this was just the ‘right’ thing to say in front of the camera.
The entire franchise was eager to right everything that had gone wrong in that fateful half-minute just one year ago. You could hear it in Tim Duncan’s voice when he delivered his now-famous Namath-esque guarantee.
But whether or not they sought to serve a healthy dose revenge is irrelevant; they piled the buffet table high and Miami simply couldn’t get enough. The Heat didn’t just line up for seconds, it’s like they never left the queue.
But this championship means a lot more to the Spurs organisation than tasty payback. A fifth ring pushes this team higher into the upper echelon of NBA franchises. It’s no longer Celtics, Lakers, Bulls, and then the rest. The Spurs now deserve to be mentioned among the greatest of all-time.
San Antonio has quietly moulded themselves into the model NBA organisation, proving that a small-market team can find long-term success – not necessarily by drafting superstars, but by finding players that fit into a system.
Lights out! Are these guys ever gonna miss?
At 52.8%, the Spurs enjoyed the highest Finals field goal percentage since the 24 second shot clock was instituted in 1954. While much of their shooting success can be attributed to their ability to patiently pass the ball around until they got an open look, there were times when the ball seemed to be magnetically attracted to the bottom of the net.
And the Spurs’ hot hands played a dual role in this series. Along with putting points up on the board, San Antonio’s lights out shooting demoralised the Heat as they struggled to do anything on defence that might slow the Spurs’ relentless attack.
But it’s not as though Miami was getting it done at the other end of the court, either. The Heat were unable to breach 100 points even once in the series. Twice they were stuck in the 80s (Games 3 & 4) while San Antonio broke into triple digits.
It’s hard to believe that just a week ago this series was tied at one game apiece. The Spurs literally dominated the Heat in every facet of the game, earning another NBA Finals record by winning by an average of 14 points per night.
No man is an island.
As expected, LeBron James was brilliant, knocking in one-third of his team’s points on three separate occasions and leading the Heat in scoring every single night.
His teammates, however, looked like a bunch of deer in the headlights out there. For as great as King James is, he was helpless to fend off the Spurs all on his lonesome.
This was bound to happen eventually – every dynasty must fall – but I don’t think anyone expected it to go down in such emphatic fashion.
Now, I don’t want to come off as being overly dramatic. The Heat will be in a great position to win the East next season and come back to the Finals for yet another go, but Miami’s weaknesses were not only exploited by the Spurs, they were hung out on the clothesline for the whole world to point and gawk at.
Round 3? Will there be a rubber match?
Never in the history of the NBA have two teams met in the Finals in three consecutive seasons. Should the Heat and the Spurs keep their rosters intact, we could very well see a definitive ‘tie-breaker’ series come this time next year.
But there are some big ifs at play for both of these squads. Tim Duncan has been ‘mum’s the word’ with regards to leaking any information about his retirement plans, and at some point Ginobili and Popovich will opt to ride off into the sunset as well. Tony Parker is slightly less advanced in age, but he’ll be heading into his 14th NBA season and he experienced ankle issues throughout these playoffs.
This off-season, the heart of San Antonio’s core will have to make the difficult decision of choosing to either go out on top or defend the title in hopes of adding one more piece of hardware to the trophy case.
At this point it would be 100 per cent conjecture to speculate on what these guys might do. For now, let’s just let them bask in the glory of their championship.
The Heat will brace for the potential free agency of James, Wade and Bosh. Rumours have circled that Miami is reaching out to Carmelo Anthony to try and pry him out of New York, but in all likelihood he’ll wind up in either Houston or Chicago due to salary cap considerations. Then again, should one of Miami’s ‘Big Three’ fly the coop then this is a scenario that could gain more traction.
There’s also talk that all three players could take pay cuts to make room for ‘Melo’. I call double-bullshit on this one. The first bullshit is that three guys who’ve already got a pair of titles aren’t going to be willing to slice $5m apiece off their paychecks in order to form a super-team. And secondly, should they do just that, it would be utter and complete bullshit, not to mention bad for the NBA.
So, on the presumption that James, Wade and Bosh determine they like it where they’re at, Miami’s front office will need to take a serious look at the other players that surround their superstars. They need to get younger and find a way to get more production off the bench.
I hate to argue with a team that’s advanced to the Finals four years in a row, but I think that those closely associated with the team would agree there’s room for improvement when talking about Miami’s role players.
Salary cap restrictions will once again play a part in any off-season moves as each of the Big Three is set to earn over $20 million for suiting up next season. But several players with mid-range salaries ($3 to 4 million) have yet to be signed for the 2014-15 season. Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier and Ray Allen are all without contracts.
But let’s take a break from speculating about next year. After all, the Spurs have yet to schedule their championship parade!
Despite the early finish and lack of last-second heroics, the 2014 NBA Finals were epic.
The entire playoffs were epic.
To celebrate … let’s waste some champagne:
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