After a hot start, the Miami Heat could do little to stop the San Antonio Spurs onslaught through the next three quarters and ended up once again getting blown out for a third consecutive game to end all hopes of a three-peat.
The Spurs eliminated the Heat 4-1 in the 2014 NBA Finals with a final score of 104-87 and the outcome wasn't really in doubt after halftime.
LeBron James came out guns blazing to help the Heat race out to an early double-digit lead with crisp off-the-ball movement on offense and tightly played defense that gave hope the Heat could pull off their biggest challenge yet. But even though Tony Parker was struggling, Manu Ginobili came off the bench to give the home team a huge boost. The Spurs would soon shake off their slow start and were able to cut the lead to seven by the end of the opening quarter.
The Heat scored 29 points in the first quarter but would quickly give up their lead and never get it back after scoring just 11 points in the second quarter. The Spurs depth simply shined through as it did in the last two games with key contributions from Patty Mills (17 points, 5-8 from 3-pt territory) and Ginobili (19 points) off the bench while Kawhi Leonard (22 points, 10 rebounds) and Tim Duncan (14 points, 8 rebounds) took turns showing why they should be considered the Spurs' best player. San Antonio outplayed the defending champs so thoroughly there was little LeBron or anyone else on the Heat could do.
Dwyane Wade never got it going, often hurting the team's offense trying to force the issue, and at many times it was simply painful to see him getting blocked on instead of him being the one delivering them. There was little to no lift in his legs around the rim as the Spurs defenders played him perfectly. Chris Bosh wasn't much better and neither of the two shot well from the field or were aggressive enough to give LeBron enough support but they weren't alone.
Birdman was a foul machine and long gone were the days where the Heat could count on him for a few baskets around the rim to go along with his defensive work. Mario Chalmers was benched in favor of Ray Allen but he was quiet for the game and only made one field goal and totaled five points. Rashard Lewis only played a handful of minutes and was ineffective. Udonis Haslem was sent in to stop the bleeding and he was quickly scored on repeatedly in single coverage versus Tim Duncan. Shane Battier, in his last NBA game, could fare no better against a Spurs team firing on all cylinders and urged on by a raucous crowd.
Against a Spurs team playing this good basketball, probably their best ever, the Miami Heat needed a huge, MVP-worthy performance from LeBron but also big-time games from Wade, Bosh and at least two or three starters and/or reserves. This had been their trademark in so many other huge come-from-behind victories en route to four straight Finals appearances and back-to-back titles, but this year it wasn't meant to be. The San Antonio Spurs were the better team and the final three games made it abundantly clear.
There is no shame in losing just their second playoff series in four years, but the nature of how the team lost these final three games will no doubt leave a lasting impression as the team looks ahead to retool this offseason. The team must retain the services of LeBron James first and foremost, in addition to getting younger, bigger and more athletic, but huge roster questions remain and it will be fascinating to follow what Heat president Pat Riley and the front office will do.
Hot Hot Hoops will be there every step of the way to cover it, stay tuned.