NBA Finals: Heat top Spurs to repeat as champions
Miami • LeBron James and the Miami Heat remain atop the NBA, and not even a proud push from the San Antonio Spurs could knock them down.
James led the Heat to their second straight title, scoring 37 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in a 95-88 victory Thursday night in a tense Game 7 that lived up to its billing.
Winning the title they needed to validate the best season in franchise history and perhaps the three-superstar system they used to build it the Heat won the second straight thriller in the NBA's first championship series to go the distance since 2010.
"It took everything we had as a team," Dwyane Wade said. "Credit to the San Antonio Spurs, they're an unbelievable team, an unbelievable franchise. This is the hardest series we ever had to play. But we're a resilient team and we did whatever it took."
Two nights after his Game 6 save when the Heat were almost eliminated, James continued his unparalleled run through the basketball world, with two titles and an Olympic gold medal in the last 12 months.
"I work on my game a lot, throughout the offseason," said James, who was MVP for the second straight finals. "I put a lot of work into it and to be able to come out here and [have] the results happen out on the floor is the ultimate. The ultimate. I'm at a loss for words."
He made five 3-pointers, defended Tony Parker when he had to, and did everything else that could ever be expected from the best player in the game.
The Heat became the NBA's first repeat champions since the Lakers in 2009-10, and the first team to beat the Spurs in the NBA Finals.
Players and coaches hugged each other after the game, the respect between the franchises that was obvious when the series started becoming even more apparent after two straight classics.
Fans stood, clapped and danced across the final minutes, when every score was answered by another score, each stop followed by a better stop. The Heat pushed their lead to six points a few times midway through the fourth but the Spurs would never be deterred.
The Spurs, so close to a fifth title just two nights earlier, couldn't find a way to grab it in this one, perhaps the last shot Tim Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili will ever get together.
"In my case I still have Game 6 in my head," Ginobili said. "Today we played an OK game, they just made more shots than us. LeBron got hot. Shane, too. Those things can happen. But being so close and feeling that you are about to grab that trophy, and seeing it vanish is very hard."
They were trying to become the first road team to win a Game 7 on the road since Washington beat Seattle in 1978, but those old guys ran out of gas just before the finish.
Duncan had 24 points and 12 rebounds for the Spurs, but missed a shot and follow attempt right under the basket with about 50 seconds left and the Spurs trailing by two.
James followed with a jumper the shot the Spurs were daring him to take earlier in the series to make it 92-88, sending San Antonio to a team a timeout as Glenn Frey's "The Heat is on" blared over the arena's sound system.
He then came up with a steal and made two free throws for a six-point lead, and after Ginobili missed, James stalked toward the sideline, knowing it was over and he was the last one standing again.
Wade had 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Heat, who overcame a scoreless Chris Bosh by getting six 3-pointers and 18 points from Shane Battier.
Streamers fell from the arena ceiling onto the white-clad fans for the second year in a row, but this one meant so much more after how close the Heat were to losing it.
Storylines Make it two
R LeBron James scores 37 points and gets 12 rebounds in the Heat's win.
• The Heat are the first team to beat the Spurs in the Finals.
• Dwyane Wade scores 23, and Shane Battier gets six 3-pointers.