Rings

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That Miami repeated as NBA champion wasn’t surprising, nor that LeBron James was named the Finals Most Valuable Player because these seemed predestined when the best basketball player in the world left the Cleveland Cavaliers to sign a free agent contract with the Heat in the summer of 2010.

When Game 7 at American Airlines Arena ended, ecstasy reigned as the Heat won, 95-88, over San Antonio last Thursday night as James totaled a game-high 37 points with 12 rebounds and four assists.

“I’m always working on my game in the off-season,’’ James said to ABC’s Doris Burke. “I’m a guy from Akron, Ohio. The inner-city. I’m blessed every time I come into the locker room and see my jersey hanging there.”

James, a small forward, scored in the paint and from beyond the three-point arc as he hit 12 of 23 attempts from the field, and five of 10 from three-point range.

With 5:34 left in the fourth quarter, James drilled a 20-foot jumper that gave the Heat an 83-77 lead, but Spurs power forward Tim Duncan’s two free throws closed the gap to 88-85 with 3:06 showing. James’ hoop with 28 seconds left increased the lead to 92-88.

Duncan was gunning for his fifth title since 1999, but his 24-point, 12-rebound effort in Game 7 wasn’t enough.

In the Game 6 loss, a heartbreaking 103-100 overtime affair, Duncan dropped 30 points and grabbed 17 rebounds.

James was assisted by shooting guard Dwyane Wade, who tallied 23 points with 10 rebounds. “It took everything to win this series,’’ said Wade, who has three championship rings since 2006, and tallied 14 points with four assists and four rebounds in Game 6. “San Antonio is a great team and franchise. This was the toughest series we played this season.”

San Antonio built an 11-4 lead before James, who scored 32 points with 11 assists and 10 boards in Game 6, converted two charity shots with 6:18 left in the first quarter.

The Spurs forged a 15-10 advantage and 2:12 remaining, but the Heat pulled ahead 18-16 after the first quarter.

San Antonio center Tiago Splitter scored on a dunk and 9:55 left in the second quarter that cut Miami’s lead to 21-20, and it was tied at 27-27 with 6:40 showing.

Miami was in front 37-32 before Spurs swingman Manu Ginobili (18 points and five assists) scored on a driving layup, and the Heat led 46-44 at the half when Wade scored. Ginobili finished with nine points and three assists in Game 6.

The Spurs and Heat are long-range masters, but it was the Heat who shined, hitting 12 of 32, with small forward Shane Battier (18 points) nailing six of eight. The Spurs sank six of 19 from the three-point line.

Battier struggled in the playoffs, but came through when it mattered. “It’s better to be timely than good,’’ he offered.

San Antonio shooting guard Danny Green, who broke Ray Allen’s three-point mark in the Finals, deposited five points in Game 7, and three points in Game 6.

Overlooked was Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard, who finished with 19 points and 16 caroms in Game 7, while tallying 22 points with 11 boards in Game 6.

San Antonio point guard Tony Parker was limited by a hamstring injury and managed 10 points and four assists in Game 7, and 19 points with eight assists in Game 6.

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 richsports5@sbcglobal.net

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