The Miami Heat are NBA Champions for the second year in a row. The Heat outlasted the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 of the NBA Finals 95-88, ousting the fourt-time champion Spurs. Following Tuesday night's thriller in Game 6, the Heat could not finish off the Spurs until the final minute of Game 7.
"It took everything we had as a team," Dwyane Wade said. "Credit to the San Antonio Spurs, they're an unbelievable team, an unbelievable franchise. This is the hardest series we ever had to play. But we're a resilient team and we did whatever it took."
LeBron James scored 37 points, including a dagger from 19 foot that put the Heat up four points with 28 seconds to go. The Spurs were determined not to let James beat them by driving to the rim, giving him plenty of space to shoot open jumpers. He hit 12 of 23 shots from the field, including 5 three-pointers.
"It became time," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He always rises to the occasion when it matters the most, when the competition is fiercest."
James was awarded the Finals MVP trophy by NBA Commissioner David Stern and NBA legend (and the award's namesake) Bill Russell after the game, his second Finals MVP in as many years.
For the second year in a row, he has won both Finals MVP and NBA MVP. Only Michael Jordan and Russell have done that. James' critics are quickly running out of ammunition.
"Listen, I can't worry about what everybody says about me," James said, as confetti fell around him. "I'm LeBron James, from Akron, Ohio, from the inner city. I'm not even supposed to be here. That's enough. Every night I walk into the locker room, I see a No. 6 with James on the back, I'm blessed. So what everybody says about me off the court, don't matter. I ain't got no worries."
The game was closely fought throughout. Both teams held leads in the first half, none by more than 7 points. James and Wade were locked in early, combining for 29 first-half points on 12-of-23 shooting.
The back-and-forth continued in the second half. The third quarter featured three lead changes and five ties, with James scoring 14 points and Kawhi Leonard scoring 9. Mario Chalmers hit his first three-pointer six attempts as the buzzer sounded on the third quarter, a 30-footer that made it 72-71 and set up a memorable fourth quarter.
San Antonio would not let the Heat pull away until the last minute. The Heat built a six-point lead three different times, but San Antonio responded each time. When Leonard hit a three-pointer with two minutes left, the Spurs were down just two points.
That was followed by two missed free throws and five missed shots by the two teams, including two by Duncan from point-blank range with under a minute left.
Then James iced the game with his 19-footer. It was especially fitting for him, since the Spurs had forced him out of the paint for so much of the series. The outside shooting that he had worked on so much leading up to the season came in handy, as he shot 7 of 12 in the second half - entirely from outside the painted area.
"I put a lot of work into it and to be able to come out here and see the results happen out on the floor is the ultimate, the ultimate," James said. "I'm at a loss for words."
Dwyane Wade scored 23 points, and Shane Battier scored 18 off the bench, hitting 6 of 8 shots from three-point range. Chris Bosh, Ray Allen, and Mike Miller struggled on offense, combining to shoot 0 for 14.
"This is the hardest series we ever had to play," Wade said. "This is what it's all about."
Tim Duncan led the Spurs with 24 points (adding 12 rebounds), while Kawhi Leonard added 19 with 16 rebounds. Tony Parker had a difficult game, shooting just 3 of 12 for 10 points. The Spurs turned the ball over 15 times.
"Credit to the Miami Heat," Duncan said. "LeBron was unbelievable. ... We just couldn't find a way to stop him."
San Antonio will spend the offseason thinking about how close they were to winning their fifth championship since 1999. The Spurs were up 5 points with 28 seconds to go in Game 6, when they could have clinched.
But the Heat came back in Game 6, setting the stage for Thursday's win. A season that began with a ring ceremony, and included a 27-game win streak and an incredible "Harlem Shake" video was capped off with the Heat's third championship in franchise history.
The team will hold a championship parade in downtown Miami on Monday at 11am.