SAN ANTONIO -- These situations had been no problem for the Miami Heat the past three seasons.
They faced elimination five times in the postseason. They won five times.
But all things come to an end.
The San Antonio Spurs overcame an early 16-point deficit to defeat the Heat 104-87 Sunday in Game 5 of the NBA Finals at AT&T Center. The Spurs won the best-of-7 series 4-1, capturing the fifth title in franchise history. The loss ended the Heat's bid to become the first team to win three consecutive championships since the 2000-02 Los Angeles Lakers.
"It's frustrating in general to be in a series like this," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "...You absolutely have to tip your hat to that team. They played exquisite basketball, this series and in particular these last three games. They're the better team. There's no other way to say it. They played great basketball and we couldn't respond to it."
In a rematch of last year's Finals, the Spurs left little doubt they were the better team. A mix of the youthful Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan displaying form from their early years was just too much to overcome.
Leonard, who was named series MVP, led San Antonio with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Ginobili (19 points) and Duncan (14) were among four Spurs in double-figures.
"You can't be so jaded that you can't appreciate what this team has accomplished," Spoelstra said. "... It's a big disappointment feeling like this, it's an incredibly empty feeling. Unfortunately, sometimes you're not going to get the job done."
For the Heat, once again the burden was left to LeBron James. He had a team-high 31 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, but received little help from teammates for a second straight game. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade hardly played up to their All-Star labels
Bosh, who guaranteed victory, finished with just 13 points. He missed all five of his 3-point attempts. Wade's performance will once again raise questions of has his ability declined with age. He scored 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting, at times resembling a player on the downside of his career.
"I struggled a little bit," Wade said. "As I told you guys, I'm never going to point at anything physically. I felt fine. I struggled offensively ... I wish I could have done more."
The Spurs led by 19 after three quarters despite guard Tony Parker having scored just two points. His first basket came with 15.6 seconds left in the third quarter. His offense was unnecessary because of the Heat's inept offense and Spurs reserve guard Patty Mills' shooting.
The Heat, who shot 40 percent, went scoreless the first four minutes of the second half. By then, the Spurs had grabbed a double-digit lead. Then the game was turned over to Mills, the towel-waving bench player turned sparkplug.
He scored 14 third-quarter points, including back-to-back 3-pointers that made it an 18-point game. It was quite the turnaround from the way the game began.
"He's a special guy," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "His energy has been important to us all year long. He's a real significant reason why we got to the Finals."
With this being an elimination game, the Heat made a pregame switch to the starting lineup. Guard Mario Chalmers was benched in favor of Ray Allen with hopes of providing a spark. The struggling Chalmers, who shot just 27 percent in the first four games, failed to start for non-injury-related reasons for the first time since Game 6 of the 2011 Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.
The move was beneficial in the beginning, especially with the Heat playing with a sense of urgency. Before the game, James told teammates in the huddle to "follow my lead."
James started similarly the way he did when they faced elimination against the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals. He scored 12 points when the Heat built a 22-6 lead in the first quarter.
"Mixed emotions, we started off very well as a team," James said. "We had a great first quarter. But from that point on, they were the better team. That's why they're the champions of 2014."
The last points of the flurry -- a 3-pointer by Allen -- seemed to awaken the Spurs. Ginobili scored six straight points to break their scoring drought. Then Leonard and Mills hit consecutive 3-pointers to complete the 12-0 run that pulled San Antonio within four.
James responded with a 3-pointer on the next possession, but the Spurs were still standing after taking the Heat's best punch. Miami led 35-28 after Wade hit a pair of free throws, but it was all San Antonio from there.
The Spurs went on yet another big run, this time scoring 11 straight points. After the Wade free throws, the Heat went scoreless for nearly five minutes.
Leonard hit a pull-up 3-pointer to give the Spurs their first lead, 37-35, with 4 minutes, 47 seconds left in the first half. A dazed Heat team could only look up at the scoreboard after what transpired. The 23-point swing caused Wade to throw the ball the length of the court after the halftime buzzer sounded.
(c)2014 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services