By Justin Patrick @calling_allfans on June 16, 2014
The 2014 NBA Finals ended Sunday night after the San Antonio Spurs beat the Miami Heat 104-87 in Game 5. The Spurs got some redemption for their excruciating loss to the Miami Heat in seven games in last year’s finals. The Spurs were oh so close last year but beat the Heat relatively easily this year. Here are five reasons why the Spurs are champions.
It looked like all but a certainty that the Spurs would be NBA champions last year. Then the Spurs lost Games 6 and 7, and therefore the NBA Finals, in excruciating fashion. Most teams would have fallen apart this season, but not the Spurs. They wanted and got Miami again and beat them handily. The Spurs weren’t scared of the moment and they didn’t sulk. They just played basketball.
Popovich, who may just be the best NBA coach ever, inserted Leonard into the starting lineup in Game 3, and he stayed there for the rest of the series. Leonard has improved significantly from last season. All Leonard did in this year’s finals was become the fourth player in NBA Finals history to score at least 20 points in three straight games before turning 23 years old and earn NBA Finals MVP honors.
LeBron is the best player in the NBA right now; this loss does not change that. In the final three games of the NBA Finals, James averaged 27 points and 7.7 rebounds. Dwyane Wade is a good player, but he isn’t a superstar anymore. The Heat’s role players were only okay this season and the bench wasn’t nearly as deep as the Spurs’ this season. The Heat are old, and they need to give LeBron some young talent if they hope to win another title.
Popovich knows how to manage his players and bench; it’s part of what makes him great. He knew he had some older veterans on his team. Popovich trusted that there could and would be many contributors, and no Spurs player averaged over 30 minutes per game this season. That means fresh legs for the playoffs, because that is what the Spurs were playing for. By contrast, the Heat had three players who averaged over 30 minutes per game.
Not everyone likes to watch the Spurs because they don’t have as many SportsCenter Top 10 plays as the Heat, Los Angeles Clippers, etc. But true basketball fans should love watching the Spurs. In our superstar AAU-driven society, teams just don’t play like the Spurs anymore. It’s all about the best player and how much they can carry a team. The Spurs space the floor and share the ball incredibly well; it’s like they are putting on a clinic.
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