SAN ANTONIO – Based on the most replayed highlights from the 2013 NBA Finals – Ray Allen’s desperation three-pointer with 5.2 seconds remaining in regulation of Game 6; Tim Duncan’s missed layup over Shane Battier in the final minute of Game 7 – the perception that the San Antonio Spurs gave away the NBA championship has managed to persist.
So, while the Spurs are rightfully out for redemption, the Miami Heat are equally motivated to use the rematch as a chance to show that last year’s championship wasn’t some fluke. Good fortune had some influence on the Heat winning the final two games of the hotly contested series, but LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were rankled by the assertion that luck saved their pursuit of back-to-back titles.
“I can’t sit here and lie to you, we do. We feel slighted,” James said on the eve of the NBA Finals. “It went seven. It wasn’t like it was 3‑0 and, you know, they had us in Game 4 and we took it and won four straight. If you look at the numbers, look at the numbers, the lead changes, the ties and the points in that series, it’s almost even.”
The seven-game series featured four games that were decided by double digits, but the other three were decided by a combined 14 points. The Spurs outscored the Heat, 684-679 but the series also featured 32 lead changes and 47 ties.
San Antonio led by five with 28.2 seconds left in Game 6, but James hit a three-pointer and Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard missed one of two free throws to give his team a 95-92 lead. James missed a three-pointer on the next trip down, but Chris Bosh grabbed the rebound and kicked the ball to a backpedalling Allen for the most clutch three-pointer since John Paxson drained a three to vault the Bulls to the 1993 title.
“I think about everything that happens and I tell people that, you know, Chris Bosh getting the rebound was just as important as me making that shot,” Allen said. “So many things had to happen, LeBron had to make a play previous to that. So many things had to happen, that’s why you can never hang your head or get down in that situation, you know, we were fortunate that things worked in our favor but, you know, you don’t plan to happen that way but winning the game is the ultimate objective.”
Allen’s shot forced overtime, but the Heat still had to finish the game and the series, which it did. Wade added that Allen’s three-pointer wasn’t the only improbable finish in the series. The Spurs won Game 1 after Tony Parker dribbled around in circles, stumbled to the floor, got up and made a jumper with James contesting before the shot clock expired.
“Game 6, it was unbelievable to be able to come back and win that game. But that’s the game of basketball. You know, the ball bounces funny ways,” Wade said. “Game 1, the shot that Tony Parker hit, I mean, that was unbelievable, to get off the ground and hit that shot and just get it off. We’re thankful for, you know, Ray Allen making that shot but there were so many other things that had to play right for us to win that game. So you need a little luck, both ways, even to be in the Finals. So, no ‑‑ we was recipient of luck in that moment, but we won the championship.”
Miami is attempting to become the fourth franchise to win three consecutive championships, joining George Mikan’s Los Angeles Lakers (1950-52), Bill Russell’s Celtics (1959-67), Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls (1991-93 and 1996-98) and Shaquille O’Neal’s Lakers (2000-03). If the Heat are able to join that select company, James doesn’t want the second title to be diminished in any way.
“We did our part, they did their part,” James said. “Both teams put themselves in a position to win an NBA Championship, and we just happened to make one or two more plays to win it. But at the end of the day it doesn’t take away that we did win last year, but that’s last year. Last year is last year and we’re excited about it, but this trophy this year belongs to nobody. It’s up for grabs.”