Basketball / Sports

LeBron James of the Miami Heat encourages his team during the first quarter in Game 5 of the NBA Finals at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas, on Sunday, June 15, 2014. (Joe Cavaretta/Sun Sentinel/MCT)

Supporting cast helps Spurs to 5th NBA title

SAN ANTONIO -- The Big Three get the love.

They earned it with a fourth NBA championship together.

But San Antonio's latest world championship would not have happened without one of the best supporting casts in league history. With series MVP Kawhi Leonard (22 points, 10 rebounds) coming of age at the perfect time, the Spurs are once again atop the NBA mountain.

San Antonio embarrassed the two-time defending champion Miami Heat and turned what was once thought to be a sure-fire seven-game series into a five-game knockout.

San Antonio 104, Miami 87.

Try as he might, LeBron James couldn't lift his team high enough to force a second elimination game in Miami. He scored 31 points, but was forced to wear the runner-up crown for the third time in five trips to the Finals. As the seconds ticked down and the celebration commenced, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker experienced sweet redemption after coming oh so close last season.

"Great coaching, persistence, drive, and a love for the game," was how Duncan described this historic run.

Don't look now, Heat, but the Spurs have not two ... not three ... not four ... but five championship rings overall.

And they did it the right way.

If I had a dollar for each time a coach or player said "It was a total team effort," and didn't really mean it, I would take us all to Hawaii for a week on the beach. But the Spurs can actually say it and legitimately mean it because they embodied that principle, which isn't always apparent on some clubs.

Other contributions came from everywhere:

--The Big Three closed the show with 49 points, including 19 from Ginobili, whose dunk over Chris Bosh got this party started.

--Patty Mills, once called Fatty Patty by his coach, scored 17 points in the finale and gave a coal miner's effort through the postseason, especially when Parker struggled. He and Ginobili led the bench effort as the Spurs scored 35 for the first 37 bench points.

--Popovich inserting Boris Diaw into the starting lineup for Tiago Splitter in Game 3 gave the Spurs another playmaker on the perimeter and on the box, a riddle Miami never solved.

All told, San Antonio displayed championship mettle after the disappointment that was the 2013 Finals and made good on Duncan's preseries statement: "We will win it this time."

The series was won with depth and big shots. The depth came courtesy of General Manager R.C. Buford and Popovich, who constructed a roster that became a perfect blend of role players and the Big Three nucleus, which entered the postseason with much fresher legs than it did in 2013.

Most important was Leonard, who took on the challenge of guarding LeBron James with the confidence of a five-time All-star. He helped turn this series into a rout by outplaying King James in the last two games on South Beach.

"This is a crazy feeling," Leonard said as he embraced his head coach.

"This is what it's all about," Pop said to his newest superstar.

LeBron said in the hours leading up to the game that this series wasn't over because "we have championship DNA." And that made sense in this case because his teammates' idea of DNA on this night was something along the lines of Did Not Accompany.

James couldn't do it by himself, not against the deepest roster in pro basketball. There was actually a calm in the AT&T Center that it would all right after LeBron threw his entire arsenal at the Spurs with 17 points in the first quarter, but the result was a manageable seven-point deficit.

Like a seasoned prizefighter with a granite chin, the Spurs took LeBron's early haymakers and won with combinations from all angles throughout.

By the time the halftime buzzer sounded, the Spurs were up by seven after trailing 22-6 midway through the first quarter.

The MVP chants for Kawhi started with 8:18 left in the third quarter and will continue throughout the season.

So the Spurs have No. 5. We'll see if next season's Big Four can get a repeat.

(c)2014 Austin American-Statesman, Texas

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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