How sweet it is! The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Miami Heat 104-87 in Game 5 of the 2014 NBA Finals on Sunday, June 15, to win the series 4-1 and be crowned NBA Champions for the first time since 2007 and the fifth time in franchise history.
Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard led San Antonio with 22 points, 10 rebounds and two assists in another electrifying performance. Leonard’s rising play during the NBA Finals led him to become the fourth youngest Finals MVP ever, trailing only Tim Duncan and Magic Johnson (who won the award twice younger).
“At the moment, I was just happy,” said Leonard on being the Finals MVP. “Just had faith throughout the whole game, but I didn’t think at all I was about to win the MVP of the Finals.”
Leonard displayed poise throughout Games 3-5, averaging 23.7 points per game while affectively shutting down LeBron James.
“He’s been unbelievable,” said the Spurs’ Tim Duncan. “He came in here after a lockout season, worked hard with us during that summer, and I can’t say that I saw the player that I saw tonight at that point… You see him play the first two games and everybody’s talking to him. And he shows up in the last three games and just plays out of his mind. He’s not worried about just doing the little things. He wants to do it all, and he plays with a confidence that is just amazing. I’m honored to be on this team right now because he’s going to be great for years to come, and I’m going to hold on as long as I can.”
Duncan finished the game with 14 points and eight rebounds. The Spurs great became only the second player since John Salley to win three NBA Championships in three separate decades. The Big Fundamental has been the backbone behind all five of the Spurs’ championships and is now the all-time playoff leader in blocked shots, points, minutes and double-doubles.
The Spurs ended the game with five players in double figures, with Patty Mills notably having a great game. The Australian spark plug added 17 points off the bench, hitting five three pointers to help swing the game the Spurs’ way. Tony Parker ended the game with 16 points, while Manu Ginobili added 19 of his own.
“He’s a special guy,” said Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich on Mills. “His energy has been important to us all year long. He’s a real significant reason why we got to the Finals, and obviously he’s played well in the Finals also. But that energy, that team sense that he has really has become infectious for everybody.”
The Spurs started the game off slow falling behind early on, as the Heat got off to a quick 8-0 start. Miami then pushed further and went on a 22-6 run, before San Antonio closed the gap to end the quarter 29-22.
The second quarter was the turning point for the Spurs as they put together an 11-0 run with 3:33 remaining before closing out the half with a 47-40 lead. The Spurs maintained the lead with a barrage of three pointers — with Mills notably hitting four in the third quarter — and never looked back.
The closing moments of the game quickly became emotional for many Spurs fans as Coach Pop checked out Manu, Duncan, Leonard, Parker and Diaw from the game who all received standing ovations.
When the final buzzer blew the infamous Queen song, “We are the champions” played throughout the stadium as a delirious crowd celebrated a long awaited fifth championship.
After a handful of mesmerizing speeches from the players and Spurs staff the crowd quickly turned to celebrating the historic win in the heart of San Antonio. Thousands poured onto Commerce Street — with exits being shut down from the highway due to lack of space — to celebrate the Spurs win deep into the night.
Days later, the Spurs celebrated their championship parade along the River Walk with over 100,000 fans. Then, after memorable speeches along the river, celebrations turned to the Alamodome where over 60,000 fans packed in to cheer their team one last time.
The Spurs front office has many offseason moves to make, with notable players becoming free agents this upcoming year. Patty Mills’ contract will need to be restructured, along with a decision on whether or not to keep ageing veteran Matt Bonner. The Spurs will eagerly be waiting on a decision from future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, who will either pick up his player option for next season or retire.
For now, fans and players can bask in the glory of redemption and of promises fulfilled. The Spurs are 2014 NBA Champions — how sweet it is!