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Berry Tramel

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NBA Finals: Kawhi Leonard deserved the MVP

by Berry Tramel Modified: June 16, 2014 at 12:50 pm •  Published: June 16, 2014
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Berry Tramel says Kawhi Leonard was a worthy NBA Finals MVP. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Berry Tramel says Kawhi Leonard was a worthy NBA Finals MVP. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The NBA season is over. So is the Heat’s reign. San Antonio popped Miami 104-87 Sunday night to win the NBA Finals in five games.

Here’s what I saw:

* I supported the MVP award going to Kawhi Leonard, although the real MVP of the series was LeBron. Everybody knows that. The longer this series went, the more of a one-man show it became.

But Leonard in Game 5 proved he was the most valuable Spur in the series. After Miami coach Erik Spoelstra changed his starting lineup, benching point guard Mario Chalmers, Tony Parker was completely nullified by LeBron.

With 16 seconds left in the third quarter, Parker had no points and one assist. But the Spurs had a 75-56 lead.

Once Leonard started playing, this series was over. He was so-so through two games, and both were tight. When Leonard got with it, the Heat was done.

In the final three games, Leonard averaged 23.7 points and 9.3 rebounds. LeBron averaged 27 points and 7.7 rebounds.

In Game 5, Leonard scored 15 points in a 141/2-minute stretch. The Heat led 13-2 when Leonard nailed a 3-pointer with 7:13 left in the first quarter. Then Leonard’s 3-pointer with 4:47 left in the second quarter gave San Antonio a 37-35 lead.

That was the only lead change of the game.

* Man, the Heat got old quick. Dwyane Wade made just four of 12 shots. He had three turnovers and no steals. Chris Bosh made six of 14 shots; he scored 13 points and the Heat was outscored by 20 with Bosh on the court. Ray Allen made one of eight shots. Shane Battier didn’t take a shot in his 11 court minutes.

The Heat started Allen in place of Mario Chalmers, which means Miami’s starting lineup was the 29-year-old LeBron and a bunch of relics – Allen, 38 (he turns 39 in July); Rashard Lewis, 35 in August; Wade, 32; Bosh, 30.

The Spurs have some old codgers themselves. But they’ve also got some young guys who can play.

* The Spurs have won five NBA titles, all with Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan. And they’ve beaten no Eastern twice in the Finals. Their victims have been Knickerbockers (’99), Nets (’03), Pistons (’05), Cavaliers (’07) and Heat (’14).

* Game 5 was a salute to the Spurs defense. The Heat scored 29 points in the first quarter. Then the Heat scored 29 points in the second and third quarters combined.

The Heat made 10 of 33 shots in those two middle quarters, with seven turnovers.

And the stinginess started with five minutes left in the first quarter, when Miami had a 22-6 lead. Over the next 29 minutes, the Spurs outscored Miami 71-36.

In those 29 minutes, the Heat made 11 of 38 shots with nine turnovers.

Meanwhile, the Spurs warmed up. In that same 29-minute span, San Antonio made 26 of 47 shots, with four turnovers.

And a usual suspect ignited the Spurs.

With LeBron neutralizing Parker, Gregg Popovich made a quick substitution, replacing Danny Green with Manu Ginobili less than 31/2 minutes into the game, and the Heat up 8-0.

That forced the Heat’s aging perimeter players, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen, each to guard a driving threat. Ginobili missed his first two shots, both 3-pointers. But with 4:48 left in the first quarter, Ginobili scored on a drive and was fouled. His 3-point play cut the Heat lead to 22-9, and poof, the Miami mystique was gone.

Ginobili’s 3-point shot made it 22-12, then Ginobili scored eight points in a span of 1:35 late in the second quarter to blow open the game.

* Miami got so desperate, it turned to Michael Beasley, who barely had played throughout the playoffs (six minutes total before Game 5, none against the Spurs). But Spoelstra went to Beasley with 5:01 left in the third quarter, with the Heat down 65-44, and played him 17 minutes the rest of the way. Beasley never guards anybody, but he scored nine points on 4-of-7 shooting and showed a pulse. Which is more than you can say for most of LeBron’s teammates.

* The Spurs shot a Finals record 52.8 percent for the series.

Six of the top eight Spurs shot at least 50 percent – Tiago Splitter 70.6, Leonard 61.2, Duncan 56.9, Patty Mills 54.3, Danny Green 53.1, Ginobili 50. Parker wasn’t far off, 47.9. Only Boris Diaw was sub-par, 36.4 percent, and Diaw was great in other ways.

* Early in the game, Duncan took a 19-foot shot that bounced off short. And I was startled. Oh yeah, I thought, he occasionally shoots that shot. The Thunder made him shoot that shot.

But Miami didn’t. Miami’s inside weakness was such, Duncan could get on the block or in the paint for virtually all his shots.

 

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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