Watching San Antonio take apart Miami in five games was a statement in how to play team basketball.
Last Sunday’s 104-87 blitz of the Heat in Game 5 of the NBA Finals at the AT&T Center started slowly for the Spurs, but over the last three quarters saw the hosts dismantle the back-to-back champions.
San Antonio’s “Big Three’’ includes power forward Tim Duncan, reserve shooting guard Manu Ginobili and point guard Tony Parker, who dropped in 16 points with two assists.
“Determination. A great coach (Gregg Popovich). Hard work. Perseverance,’’ said Duncan, who scored 14 points with eight rebounds to ESPN’s Stuart Scott, on how the Spurs won a fifth title since 1999, and avenged last season’s seven-game setback to Miami.
“This is so surreal,’’ said the soon-to-be 23-year-old Kawhi Leonard, who tallied a team-high 22 points with a team-best 10 rebounds and was named the Finals Most Valuable Player after averaging 17.8 points on 61 percent shooting. “Pop pushed me. My teammates pushed me. The fans pushed me.”
Heat small forward LeBron James (game-high 31 points and 10 rebounds) played well, but shooting guard Dwyane Wade (11 points and three boards) and center Chris Bosh (13 points with seven caroms) were essentially non-factors.
On Sunday, the Heat led 8-0 when James dunked on a follow and 8:41 left, but the Spurs cut the margin to 22-12 after Ginobili hit a three-pointer with 4:27 showing.
On the strength of 17 first-quarter points and six rebounds by James, Miami took a 29-22 advantage into the second quarter.
The Spurs, who seemingly always make the extra pass, trimmed Miami’s lead to 35-32 when Duncan, the No. 1 overall pick in 1997, sank a running hook with 6:01 left in the second quarter.
The Spurs scored the next seven points including Ginobili’s reverse layup and 3:33 showing that gave San Antonio a 39-35 lead.
Ginobili, who poured in 14 of his 19 points at the half, then drilled a trey with 1:52 left for a 45-37 advantage, and San Antonio went to the locker room ahead 47-40.
“We raised the intensity in the second quarter,’’ said Ginobili, who also had four assists and four rebounds to ABC sideline reporter Doris Burke. “We moved the ball better. We have to collapse the defense and not allow him (James) to score inside, but he can hit the outside shot.”
When reserve point guard Patty Mills (17 points) scored on a layup, the Spurs pulled ahead 56-42 with 6:35 left in the third quarter.
It became 65-44 with 5:01 showing as Ginoboli nailed a three as the Spurs took a 77-58 cushion into the fourth quarter.
In Game 4 at American Airlines Arena on Thursday, the Spurs blasted the Heat, 107-86, and drilled Miami, 111-92 in Game 3 on Tuesday.
In the 21-point shellacking, Leonard led with 20 points and grabbed a game-best 14 rebounds as San Antonio forged a 55-36 lead at the half.
In the 19-point blowout, Leonard scored a personal-best 29 points with four caroms as the Spurs shot a Finals record 75.8 percent (25 of 33 shots) in the first half, led 71-50, and finished at 59.4 percent (38 of 64).
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.