Heat Check: Miami’s quest snuffed out with one last blowout loss

The San Antonio Spurs turned off the AC for the first game of the NBA Finals.

In the last game, the Spurs turned out the lights on the Miami Heat’s season.

The Heat’s run of two straight NBA titles is over, and it ended in embarrassing fashion for a proud franchise, a 104-87 loss to the Spurs.

Before Sunday’s Game 5, Heat forward Chris Bosh assured that a Miami victory was imminent: "We’re going to win this game," he said. "I don’t care about any guarantees — take it how you want it."

That guarantee didn’t work, and neither did LeBron James’ motivational "follow my lead" message to his teammates.

James did his part. He had a game-high 31 points. That’s in line with his 31.9 scoring average in elimination games, an NBA high for any player with five or more opportunities.

"He’s still the best player on the planet," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

But the rest of the Heat players did not provide enough help, and the Spurs set an NBA Finals record by having plus-70 scoring margin for the series.

In fact, San Antonio might have had a sweep had they hit their free throws down the stretch of Game 2.

Either way, the Spurs won their fifth NBA title since 1999. They avenged their painful loss to the Heat in the 2013 NBA Finals, a series San Antonio came so close to winning.

Spurs forward Tim Duncan, who had 14 points and eight rebounds, said there are several reasons why San Antonio once again rules the NBA.

"Great coach (Popovich), persistent drive, love for the game. We remember what happened last year and how it felt in the locker room," Duncan said. "We used it and built on it and got back here, and it’s amazing. It makes last year OK."

The NBA Finals MVP was Kawhi Leonard, who at age 22 is the youngest player to win that award since Duncan in 1999, when he was 23.

San Antonio set an NBA Finals record for shooting percentage (52.8) since the beginning of the shot-clock era.

As for the Heat, it remains to be seen if this is the end of this core and their four straight runs to the NBA Finals.

"They dominated us," James said of the Spurs.

Heat guard Dwyane Wade acknowledged that as well.

"It’s been a hell of a ride," Wade said. "I’d love to be 4 for 4 (in NBA Finals), but it wasn’t in the cards to be that."

Asked about his future, James offered no clues.

"I love Miami," he said. "My family loves it. But you guys are trying to find answers, and I’m not going to give it to you."

The start of the game promised much more for Miami. The Heat led 29-22 after the first quarter. It was the first time in these Finals that the Heat had won the first quarter. In fact, when they led 8-0, that was their largest lead of the series.

However, after a 22-6 Heat lead, the Spurs rallied with a 12-0 run.

More from Game 5

A 3-pointer from Leonard with 4:47 left in the second quarter gave the Spurs their first lead of the game.

The Spurs outscored the Heat 25-11 in the second quarter to take a 47-40 halftime lead. James had 20 points at the half — the rest of the Heat combined had only 20.

San Antonio led despite only shooting 39.5 percent at the half. The Spurs’ starting backcourt was held scoreless — Tony Parker was 0 for 7 from the floor, and Danny Green was 0 for 4.

But the Heat, the best shooting team in the NBA in the regular season at 50.1 percent, were held to 38.2 percent in the first half.

The third quarter was more of the same for the Heat, which needed four minutes to get a score in the period. The Spurs built a 21-point lead and rolled from there, winning the quarter 30-18.

Patty Mills, San Antonio’s reserve point guard, had 14 points in the third quarter as the Spurs led 77-58 going into the fourth.

STRATEGY CHANGE

Heat point guard Mario Chalmers was benched for the first time since he became a starter in Game 6 of the 2011 NBA Finals. Every other time he has been healthy, he had started. But, on Sunday night, the Heat went without a true point guard to start the game — shooter Ray Allen was inserted into the starting lineup. Plus, when the Heat needed a point guard in reserve, the call went to Norris Cole — not Chalmers, who didn’t enter the game until the third quarter.

The strategy change seemed to work early on because the Heat raced to a 22-6 lead, and poor first quarters had plagued Miami in the previous four games. But without Allen coming off the bench, Miami had little in reserve, and the Spurs started to take over late in the first quarter and throughout the rest of the half.

TURNING POINT

Manu Ginobili’s impressive drive through the Heat defense, punctuated with a left-handed thunder dunk, capped a 14-0 second-quarter run that gave the Spurs their first lead of the game. In the first quarter, the Spurs had a 12-0 run that answered a 22-6 Heat start. On Ginobili’s dunk, he grabbed the ball with two hands to bull by Ray Allen and then posterized 6-11 Chris Bosh.

STAT OF THE GAME

The Spurs’ backup backcourt of Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills had 19 and 17 points, respectively. The Heat’s starting backcourt of Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen combined for just 16 points. In fact, if you throw in every guard the Heat used, including Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole, they were still outscored by the Spurs’ backups 36-26.

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WHAT’S NEXT

A parade will be held for the Spurs, and a ton of decisions loom for the Heat. Free agency, the draft and the contract opt-out decisions due to be made by James, Wade and Bosh will highlight a busy offseason for the dethroned champions.