The Miami Heat have now won back-to-back NBA Championships beating one of their toughest opponents, San Antonio Spurs

PictureDwyane Wade celebrates the big win with girlfriend Gabrielle Union on his lap and a cigar
Over what proved to be seven games, the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs battled and battled.

Momentum swung wildly back and forth, and ultimately, one of the most exciting things in sports was required to separate the teams and determine the ultimate champion: Game 7.

The winner-take-all contest didn't disappoint, and at the end of Game 7 of the NBA Finals, Lebron James and the Heat made enough plays to outlast Tim Duncan and the Spurs.

James finished with 37 points, 12 rebounds and five 3-pointers, and the Heat emerged with a 95-88 victory over San Antonio Thursday night.

Dwyane Wade added a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds. When asked
what it took to win the title, Wade's answer was simple.

"Everything," he said. "It took everything we had as a team."

Both teams started off very sloppy Thursday night, as it seemed like they
were paralyzed by the excitement in the air. Passes were off-target; poor shots
were attempted; and the ball-handling was shaky.

The Spurs took an early lead, but two 3-pointers from Miami's Shane Battier
quickly erased the deficit. With both teams shooting less than 40 percent, the
Heat ended the quarter with a two-point lead.

Battier started the second quarter still hot from beyond the arc, as he
quickly knocked down his third 3-pointer of the night, pushing the Heat lead to

After getting six quick points from James, it seemed as though the Heat were
ready to break the game open. But Miami got into foul trouble, and through 14
free throws, the Spurs were able to tie the game with the second quarter winding

Wade had the answer however, knocking down a mid-range jumper at the end of
the half to put the Heat up 46-44.

Wade sparked Miami in the first half by scoring 14 points and grabbing six
rebounds. James added 15 points.

Duncan led the way in the first half for San Antonio, scoring 13 points,
grabbing five rebounds and snagging four steals. Kawhi Leonard attacked the
glass well, scooping 10 rebounds.

The Spurs only shot 35 percent from the floor in the first half but outscored
the Heat in the paint 24-14.

Early in the second half, James drained back-to-back 3-pointers, and it
seemed as though the Heat would finally start breaking away. But the Spurs
continued to stay with Miami.

Manu Ginobili scored a layup with five seconds remaining in the third quarter
to put the Spurs up by two, but once again the Heat had an answer as Mario
Chalmers banked in a long 3-pointer as time expired in the third quarter with
the Heat leading, 72-71.

The fourth quarter started out rocky for the Spurs, as they had four
turnovers. The Heat continued to capitalize with big shots by Wade and James.
And with Battier's sixth 3 of the game, it looked as though the game would be
out of reach for the Spurs.

Duncan answered back however, drawing the foul, and making the tough bank
shot, cutting Miami's lead to three.

After trading buckets between Wade and Leonard, Duncan missed a tip-in that
would have tied the game. Instead, the Spurs gave the ball back to Miami with 39
seconds left.

The following possession, LeBron came off a screen and drained an open
jumper, putting the Heat up by four with 27 seconds left.

After James' clutch jumper, Ginobili made a poor pass, which resulted in the
Spurs having to foul Miami until the clock expired.

In the losing effort, Duncan finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds, while
Leonard added 19 points and 16 rebounds.

By prevailing, the Heat successfully defended their championship and secured
their third title in franchise history.

It's also James' second title, further cementing his place in history.

"I work on my game a lot throughout the offseason I put a lot of work into
it," said James, who was named the finals MVP. "And to come out and to be able
to come out here, and the results happen on the floor ... it's the ultimate.

"I'm lost for words," he later added.

By Mitch Kunzler
For the Deseret News


The Heat's backs are against the wall one more time. And it was Ginobili who put them there.

Manu Ginobili had 24 points and 10 assists in a surprise start to spark the San Antonio Spurs to a 114-104 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night, pushing the Spurs one victory away from their fifth championship.

Danny Green scored 24 points and broke Ray Allen's finals record for 3s in a series with 25. Tony Parker had 26 points for San Antonio.

LeBron James scored 25 points on 8-for-22 shooting for the Heat and Dwyane Wade had 25 points and 10 assists. But the Heat missed 21 of their first 29 shots to fall behind by 17 points in the second quarter of another uninspired performance.

Game 6 of the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night in Miami.

Whirling through the defense like the Manu of old, Ginobili shrugged off a postseason full of disappointment to deliver a performance that the Spurs have never needed more desperately. He hit 8 of 14 shots and had his highest points total since June 4, 2012.

Tim Duncan had 13 points and 11 rebounds, Green was 6 for 10 from 3-point range, and Parker gutted through 36 minutes on that tender right hamstring. Kawhi Leonard had 16 points and eight rebounds, and the San Antonio shot 60 percent to overcome 19 turnovers.

Allen scored 21 points and Chris Bosh had 16 points and six rebounds for the Heat, who were stunned by a vintage Ginobili performance early and never really recovered.

Miami missed 21 of its first 29 shots and Green hit three straight 3s in the middle of the second quarter to tie Allen's record of 22. The Spurs led 47-30 on Duncan's two free throws before the Heat finally showed some fight.

A 12-0 run got them back within striking distance at 47-42 and the Heat surged out of the halftime gates to cut San Antonio's lead to 61-59 in the first 1:17 of the third.

San Antonio pushed right back, getting a jumper from Parker, a 3-pointer from Green that broke Allen's record and a lefty layup from Ginobili to get a little breathing room.

Ginobili closed the third with a twisting, off-balance, left-handed runner and a right-handed drive to the bucket to bring cheers of ''Manu! Manu!'' from the delirious crowd.

Nowhere to be found in the first four games, and for most of these playoffs, Ginobili had his fingerprints all over the opening of Game 5. He hit a step-back jumper, had two pretty assists on a backdoor cut from Green and a thunderous dunk from Duncan and knocked down two free throws for an early 9-4 lead.

Ginobili's 3-pointer from the wing made it 15-10, bringing the nervous crowd to its feet. The awakening was a welcome sign for the Spurs, who desperately missed their playmaking daredevil.

The Heat reclaimed momentum in Game 4 thanks to a shuffle of the starting lineup by coach Erik Spoelstra, who moved sharp-shooter Mike Miller into the starting lineup in Udonis Haslem's place, giving Miami a smaller lineup that spaced the floor better and gave James and Wade room to operate.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich made a move to match that on Sunday night, putting the struggling Ginobili in for center Tiago Splitter. Ginobili was averaging 7.5 points in the first four games and shooting 34 percent. In the final year of his deal, the soon-to-be 36-year-old was asked about retirement on Saturday.

The crowd roared for Ginobili when he was introduced last, with one banner reading ''We still Gino-believe!''
Wade had endured a similarly quiet start to these finals before erupting for 32 points and six steals in Miami's Game 4 victory that evened the series. That carried over to the opening quarter of Game 5, when Wade's assertive play helped Miami withstand Ginobili's initial haymaker.

Wade's trademark euro-step on the break and two free throws kept the game tight and James hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 17 with under 5 minutes to play in the period.

The two teams entered Game 5 riding a pendulum of momentum that was swinging wildly back and forth over the previous three games. A classic, air-tight Game 1 victory by the Spurs gave way to three blowouts - Miami by 19 in Game 1, San Antonio by 36 in Game 3 and the Heat by 16 in Game 4.
The volatility made it difficult for either team to feel like it had a grip on expectations heading into the pivotal Game 5, but the Heat did appear to finally assert themselves with a dominant performance from their three All-Stars on Thursday night.
James, Wade and Bosh broke out of a series-long malaise to combine for 85 points, 30 rebounds and 10 steals, finally finding a way to get to the rim against the paint-clogging Spurs defense.

But for a team as talented and experienced as they are, these Heat have shown a maddening inconsistency over the last month. The team that won 27 straight during the regular season came into the game having going 11 straight games without winning two in a row.

There was so much more riding on this game for the Spurs than the Heat, who reclaimed homecourt advantage with their decisive victory in Game 4. Under the current 2-3-2 format that was adopted in 1985, no visiting team has won both Games 6 and 7 on the road in the finals.

And the Spurs played with more urgency from the start.

Now the Heat's backs are against the wall one more time. And it was Ginobili who put them there.

LeBron James scored 33 points while playing with the aggression and ferocity that everyone expects of the four-time MVP, leading the Miami Heat to a 109-93 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night that evened the NBA Finals at two games apiece.

Each of Miami's Big 3 exceeded their scoring average from the first three Finals games in Thursday's Game 4. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade each eclipsed 30 points.

James also had 11 rebounds and four assists and finally got some much-needed help from his struggling All-Star teammates. Dwyane Wadescored 32 points, Chris Bosh had 20 points and 13 rebounds and the defending champions made sure the series will head back to South Beach.

Tony Parker had 15 points and nine assists while playing through a sore right hamstring for the Spurs, who were trying to move one step closer to their fifth championship.

Game 5 in the best-of-seven series is Sunday night in San Antonio.Ray Allen scored 14 points for the Heat. Miami had 50 points in the paint after managing 32 in a 36-point loss in Game 3.

Tim Duncan scored 20 points, and Kawhi Leonard added 12 points and seven rebounds for the Spurs, who turned the ball over 19 times. After setting a Finals record with 16 3-pointers in Game 3, San Antonio was 8 for 16.

James was an abysmal 7 for 21 for 15 points in Game 3, and he promised to be better in Game 4. He delivered on that the only way he knows how, hitting 15-of-25 shots and putting the team on his shoulders to set the tone early.

Every time James snatched a Spurs miss off the glass he thundered up the court, attacking the back-pedaling defense for easy layups that simply haven't been there for him this series.

He made six of his first seven shots, controlling the tempo and responding when the Spurs threatened to run away with the game in the first six minutes.

Parker strained his right hamstring during Game 3, leaving many in San Antonio to fear that the big step forward they made with their win in Game 3 came at a hefty price. But Parker deemed himself "ready to go" at the team's morning shoot-around and looked fine, save for a quick trip to the locker room in the fourth quarter.

All the old Parker tricks were there in the first quarter -- a pull-up jumper to open the game, a driving layup and then another off the pick-and-roll. Leonard then buried a 3-pointer to give the Spurs a 15-5 lead early in the game.

Then James made the move the Heat have been waiting for all series.
He took the ball coast-to-coast on two straight possessions during a run that tied it at 19. James then hit two mid-range jumpers -- an area that has been a struggle for him -- to cap the 14-2 surge and give Miami a 25-21 lead.

In an unusual move, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra decided to shuffle the starting lineup in the middle of a series. He inserted the sharp-shooting Mike Miller for big man Udonis Haslem in an effort to create more room for James and Wade to penetrate to the rim.

Miller was 9 for 10 on 3-pointers in his first three games of the Finals, but was scoreless in the game.

Wade was averaging 2.7 points in the second half in the Finals, but had eight in the third quarter of Game 4.

Wade then finished off the Spurs with a flurry of eight straight Heat points followed by an assist to Bosh for a 94-83 lead with seven minutes to play. The Heat's Big Three scored all but three points for Miami in the fourth.
If there was a common theme in the first three games, it was the curiously meek performance from James. He entered this series after perhaps the best season of his career, a versatile and efficient freight train that had taken the league and made it his own.

He was out to show just how far he'd come from 2007, when the Spurs dismantled his Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals and exposed the rising star as a player who could be neutralized if he was forced to settle for jump shots. James promised that he would not be so easily contained this time around, and .565 shooting percentage during the regular season, including .406 on 3-pointers, seemed to support that theory.

But the Spurs had done to him in these Finals exactly what they did to him six years ago. They've clogged the paint with two big men -- Duncan and Tiago Splitter -- and surrounded him on the perimeter with a pack of hungry young wings led by Leonard and Green.

The results had been unlike anything the league has grown used to seeing from its biggest star. James entered Game 4 averaged 16.7 points on 38.9 percent shooting. He was just 3 for 13 from 3-point range in the first three games, and even more startling, only had six free throw attempts.
"I'm putting all the pressure on my chest, on my shoulders to come through for our team," James said. "That's the way it is."

It would be hard to find much higher stakes than Game 4 for the Heat. No team in NBA history has come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the championship.

The Miami Heat find themselves down 2-1 in the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs as they prepare to hit the hardwood as betting underdogs in Game 4 on Thursday night.

They might end up as favorites if Tony Parker can't go with a seriously strained hamstring. The Spurs point guard is day-to-day and didn't sound too convincing at a press conference Wednesday.

The Spurs trounced the Heat 113-77 as a 2-point home favorite on the NBA betting lines in Game 3 of the best-of-seven set on Tuesday night, with Danny Green scoring a team-high 27 points.

LeBron James was held to just 15 points in the loss for Miami and he promised a better performance, one that would put the team on his shoulders if needed for Game 4.

The betting consensus was split right down the middle as of Thursday morning and he line had moved from -2 to -1 in early wagering.

The Spurs sport records of 58-24 and 39-41-2 ATS heading into this matchup, while the Heat sit at 66-16 and 46-36 ATS on the season. The OVER/UNDER records are 36-45-1 for the Spurs and 43-39 for the Heat.

Betting Line:
On the opening line for this matchup, the Spurs sat as 2-point favorites. The total had been pegged earlier by the oddsmakers at 188.5.

Power Rankings / Prediction:
The Power Rankings have the No. 6-rated Heat taking on the No. 3-rated Spurs in this contest. Computer models indicate a possible 107-106 win for the Heat on Thursday.

How They Match Up:
The game also pits San Antonio's No. 4-ranked offense, averaging 103 PPG, against a Heat defense that ranks No. 5 at 95 PPG. The Spurs field goal percentage has averaged 48.1% so far, less than the Heat shooters have achieved on the year, 49.6% per game.

In comparing how the teams stack up statistically, the Heat own the league's No. 3-rated mark, allowing 94.4 points per game when playing on the road. San Antonio, on the other hand, rates No. 5 in scoring on their home court.

Miami lost its last outing, a 113-77 result against the Spurs on June 11. The Heat failed to cover in that game as a 2-point underdog, while the 190 combined points took the game OVER the total. Miami was run off the court by the Spurs on Tuesday as San Antonio blasted them 113-77 at AT&T Center.

Miami Heat Trends:
When playing on Thursday are 6-4
Before playing San Antonio are 6-4
After playing San Antonio are 3-7
After a loss are 10-0

San Antonio Spurs Trends:
When playing on Thursday are 8-2
Before playing Miami are 9-1
After playing Miami are 6-4
After a win are 7-3

A few Heat at Spurs trends to consider:
Miami is 21-4 SU in its last 25 games on the road
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Miami's last 6 games
The total has gone UNDER in 10 of Miami's last 13 games when playing on the road against San Antonio
The total has gone UNDER in 19 of Miami's last 25 games when playing San Antonio
San Antonio is 8-1 SU in its last 9 games
San Antonio is 7-1 SU in its last 8 games at home
San Antonio is 13-2 SU in its last 15 games when playing at home against Miami
The total has gone OVER in 6 of San Antonio's last 7 games at home

Next up:
Miami at San Antonio, Sunday, June 16
San Antonio home to Miami, Sunday, June 16

The Miami Heat kept saying it didn't matter, that LeBron James affects the game in different ways and this sudden disappearance of his scoring wasn't the ominous sign that it may have seemed to be.

They were wrong.

With James struggling again to impose his will, the defending champion Heat lost Game 3 to the San Antonio Spurs 113-77 at AT&T Center Tuesday night and now trail 2-1 in the NBA Finals. They did it with three-pointers, setting an NBA Finals record with 16 in the game. And they did it with an extended run, finishing the game on a 69-33 tear after a tie at 44.

As such, the odds of the Spurs winning the fifth title they so desire turned in their favor yet again: In Finals in which the first two games are split, the Game 3 winner has gone on to win it all 12 out of 13 times. Game 4 is in San Antonio on Thursday.

James, who had two points at the half when the Spurs led 50-44, missed 11 of his first 13 shots and finished with less than 20 points for the third consecutive game for the first time since the Finals loss to the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 that haunted him so. The Spurs are the ones haunting him now — again.

"We didn't do anything right tonight," James said. "We can't play like that on either side of the floor if we want to win."

The Spurs broke open a close game, tied at 44, with a 69-33 run. And it wasn't Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, or Manu Ginobili at center stage, but role players like Gary Neal, Kawhi Leonard, and Danny Green. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, or Manu Ginobili at center stage but role players Gary Neal, Kawhi Leonard, and Danny Green.

Neal, who had scored in double-digits four times in 16 playoff games, finished with 24 points and hit six three-pointers.

"All of my teammates and Pop, they do a great job of encouraging me to continue to shoot the ball," Green said.

Leonard was spectacular in defending James and added 14 points. Green had 27 points and hit seven of nine three-pointers.

"When I'm aggressive defensively it helps me get into a rhythm offensively," Green said.

Just once all season had he scored less than 20 points in consecutive games, and it didn't happen in the playoffs until the Finals. It happened just five times in the regular season and twice in 16 playoff games before they faced the Spurs. He was 14-for-33 coming in and shot 7-for-21 in Game 3.

For all the talk about how the Heat haven't lost consecutive games since Jan. 10, it wasn't as if the Spurs weren't a resilient bunch too. Barring a three-game losing streak to end the regular season that had everything to do with their lack of health, they had lost consecutive games once since Dec. 18. They were 35-6 at home during the regular season.

Duncan wasted no time in setting the Spurs' tone at the start, attacking Udonis Haslem in the lane for the sort of bucket that had been so tough to come by in Game 2. He kept it going nearly six minutes later, roaring past James in the lane for a dunk that came off of a Parker penetration pass and put them up 11-4. In between, they kept the Heat to just two of nine shooting while Bosh's latest futile stretch came in the form of his one of five start from the field.

The Heat eventually responded, and early aggressiveness from Wade going to the rim sparked his eight-point first quarter as the Spurs led 24-20 entering the second. It was a good sign for the home team, as they had won one of the previous eight quarters in these Finals coming in (the Heat won five, and the teams tied twice).

"I didn't recognize our team tonight," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We got what we deserved out there."
But it wouldn't have lasted until halftime if not for Neal, whose 14 points before the break were about as unexpected as the notion that James would have just two on 2-for-8 shooting in that same span. The Spurs' first double-digit lead of the Finals had become a 44-44 tie after a 14-4 Heat run, but a Parker three from the right corner stemmed that tide and Neal capped the half with a three-pointer at the buzzer that put San Antonio up 50-44.

Duncan played quarterback yet again, starting the break with a quick outlet pass to Parker and another to Neal on the left wing for his shot. But there had been missed opportunities — two consecutive wide open threes that were missed by Matt Bonner midway through the second and eight turnovers that led to 10 Heat points.

The Spurs pulled away yet again midway through the third quarter, and it had everything to do with Duncan's desire. After his jumper and a Green three put the Spurs up 11, Duncan blocked an out-of-control layup from Mario Chalmers and lunged toward the baseline to keep the ball in bounds and start the fastbreak. With Duncan falling into the front row and Green attacking the rim on the other end en route to getting (and making) two free throws, their run that began late in the second quarter stretched to 15-2 and they led 59-46.