NBA Finals: LeBron James, Miami edge Tim Duncan, Spurs in thrilling winner-take-all Game 7
Lynne Sladky, Associated Press
Over what proved to be seven games, the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs battled and battled.
Momentum swung wildly back and forth, and ultimately, one of the most exciting things in sports was required to separate the teams and determine the ultimate champion: Game 7.
The winner-take-all contest didn't disappoint, and at the end of Game 7 of the NBA Finals, Lebron James and the Heat made enough plays to outlast Tim Duncan and the Spurs.
James finished with 37 points, 12 rebounds and five 3-pointers, and the Heat emerged with a 95-88 victory over San Antonio Thursday night.
Dwyane Wade added a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds. When asked what it took to win the title, Wade's answer was simple.
"Everything," he said. "It took everything we had as a team."
Both teams started off very sloppy Thursday night, as it seemed like they were paralyzed by the excitement in the air. Passes were off-target; poor shots were attempted; and the ball-handling was shaky.
The Spurs took an early lead, but two 3-pointers from Miami's Shane Battier quickly erased the deficit. With both teams shooting less than 40 percent, the Heat ended the quarter with a two-point lead.
Battier started the second quarter still hot from beyond the arc, as he quickly knocked down his third 3-pointer of the night, pushing the Heat lead to five.
After getting six quick points from James, it seemed as though the Heat were ready to break the game open. But Miami got into foul trouble, and through 14 free throws, the Spurs were able to tie the game with the second quarter winding down.
Wade had the answer however, knocking down a mid-range jumper at the end of the half to put the Heat up 46-44.
Wade sparked Miami in the first half by scoring 14 points and grabbing six rebounds. James added 15 points.
Duncan led the way in the first half for San Antonio, scoring 13 points, grabbing five rebounds and snagging four steals. Kawhi Leonard attacked the glass well, scooping 10 rebounds.
The Spurs only shot 35 percent from the floor in the first half but outscored the Heat in the paint 24-14.
Early in the second half, James drained back-to-back 3-pointers, and it seemed as though the Heat would finally start breaking away. But the Spurs continued to stay with Miami.
Manu Ginobili scored a layup with five seconds remaining in the third quarter to put the Spurs up by two, but once again the Heat had an answer as Mario Chalmers banked in a long 3-pointer as time expired in the third quarter with the Heat leading, 72-71.
The fourth quarter started out rocky for the Spurs, as they had four turnovers. The Heat continued to capitalize with big shots by Wade and James. And with Battier's sixth 3 of the game, it looked as though the game would be out of reach for the Spurs.
Duncan answered back however, drawing the foul, and making the tough bank shot, cutting Miami's lead to three.
After trading buckets between Wade and Leonard, Duncan missed a tip-in that would have tied the game. Instead, the Spurs gave the ball back to Miami with 39 seconds left.
The following possession, LeBron came off a screen and drained an open jumper, putting the Heat up by four with 27 seconds left.
After James' clutch jumper, Ginobili made a poor pass, which resulted in the Spurs having to foul Miami until the clock expired.
In the losing effort, Duncan finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds, while Leonard added 19 points and 16 rebounds.
By prevailing, the Heat successfully defended their championship and secured their third title in franchise history.
It's also James' second title, further cementing his place in history.
"I work on my game a lot throughout the offseason I put a lot of work into it," said James, who was named the finals MVP. "And to come out and to be able to come out here, and the results happen on the floor ... it's the ultimate.
"I'm lost for words," he later added.
You can follow Mitch Kunzler on Twitter @MitchKunzler
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