LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh came together four summers ago to leave their impact on NBA history, to become one of the greatest teams the league has ever seen, and to rack up the rings. Two weeks ago, the Heat stood at the precipice of history, with a chance to complete an incredibly rare feat; a three-peat. However, on the doorstep of a glorious achievement the Heat tripped on the last step and got completely and utterly humiliated by a Spurs team that was flat out MUCH better than them. After two competitive games in San Antonio, the Spurs completely wiped the floor with the Heat, as the Spurs repeatedly seemed to have 5 of the best 6 players on the court at all times. The Heat had no answers, as LeBron's teammates were abysmal on offense, and the entire team failed on the defensive end of the floor.
As much as you can blame the Heat, and believe me, there is a lot of blame to go around, you just have to tip your cap to the Spurs for playing at an extraordinary pace not only in this series, but for most of the playoffs as well. After they struggled through the first six games of their first round series against the Mavs, the Spurs took their game to another gear that their opponents were never able to match. They blew the doors off of the Mavs in that Game 7, and they simply did not look back after that. They destroyed the Trail Blazers in the conference semis, winning every game by at least 15 points in a 5 game rout. The Thunder put up a fight in the conference finals, but the Spurs were still firing on all cylinders, blowing out a team featuring the league MVP and borderline top 5 player in Russell Westbrook three times by 17 or more, then gutting out an overtime win in Oklahoma City while missing Tony Parker for the second half of the game.
Suffice to say, that play continued well into the Finals. After splitting the first two games the Spurs came out throwing haymakers in the first half of Game 3, shooting an incomprehensible 76% in the first half and building a 20 point lead at halftime, setting the tone for how the rest of the series would play out. Game 4 was almost a carbon copy of Game 3, the Spurs might not have shot at their historic first half rate, but they once again took it to Miami Game 4, building up another gigantic first half lead and coasting to an easy win on the Heat's home floor. San Antonio destroyed Miami on the glass, out rebounding the Heat by 17, and showed how much more cohesive they were on the offensive end, nearly doubling the Heat's assist total as well. Down to their last gasp, LeBron came out guns blazing to start Game 5, dropping 17 points in the first quarter as Miami built up an early 22-6 lead. My how the wheels came off after that. After that slow start the Spurs blew the Heat out of the gym, outscoring the Heat 71-36 from that point on through the end of the 3rd quarter, all but making the 4th quarter a coronation for the Spurs 5th title of the Duncan Popovich era. The Spurs were clearly the class of the league this year, they had the deepest bench out of anyone in the playoffs and had the best coach in the league calling the shots, and as of now this will go down as the best Spurs team in franchise history.
As well as the Spurs played, the Heat played just as poorly. LeBron had a strange series, in their final three losses, he went off and was unstoppable for one quarter, then was strangely passive and ineffective for the other three. LeBron will be getting no blame for me in this series though, he played well enough to win, putting up 28, 7, and 4 a game shooting 57% from the field. That's pretty much the only positive I can say about the Heat in this series. As for the negative, we'll start with Dwyane Wade, who had played well in every Finals he'd been in throughout his career, and was coming off a solid series against the Pacers in the conference finals. Amazing how things would change just one series later. Wade was absolutely ABYSMAL throughout the Finals on both sides of the floor. When LeBron had to leave Game 1 with cramps, Wade failed to carry the Heat offensively for Miami as a 7 point 4th quarter advantage turned into a 15 point defeat. He had a so-so Game 2 and put up nice albeit fairly empty numbers in Game 3, but it was the rest of the series where things completely fell apart.
To call Wade's last two games of the Finals a nightmare would be an understatement. He missed 9 of his first 10 shots in Game 4, finishing with a pathetic 10 points on 3/13 shooting. Game 5 was no better, Wade was once again unable to find his touch scoring 11 points on 4/12 from the field . It wasn't just his shooting performance that was horrendous, Wade failed to help the team in any way possible. He put up 5 assists and rebounds TOTAL in those final two games, shot a Shaq like 50% from the foul line, and continued his lethargic effort on defense, broken down quite nicely here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IakSy1cO9ss The Spurs dared Wade to beat them from outside the paint and he refused to oblige, seeming very hesitant to put up jump shots. He didn't blame injuries for his performance, but Wade seemed to lack his trademark explosiveness that has made him the one of the greatest guards the game has ever seen. No play sums that up, or Wade's Finals performance in general better than this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFxH1-fPeXo This was a team loss, and even a good series from Wade probably doesn't change the outcome, but Wade simply gave Miami no chance with the way he played throughout the Finals. He was basically LeBron's equal their first year together in Miami, but just three seasons later he incomprehensibly looks washed up at the age of 32. His steep decline is a GIGANTIC cause of concern for the Heat's future.
Chris Bosh didn't fare much better in these Finals. His play wasn't as destructive as Wade's was, but with Wade struggling this would have been a great opportunity for Bosh to establish himself as the Heat's second option and make a big impact, but he did not answer the call in this series. He played well in the first two games, even knocking down a big 3 to help Miami pull out Game 2, but that was the last we'd really see from Bosh in this series. He put up a staggeringly low 4 shots in Game 3, and failed to crack 13 points or 7 rebounds in any of last three games of the series. He was just as ineffective as Wade, averaging 14 and 5 in the Finals while contributing to the Heat's poor efforts on the defensive end and on the glass. This has continued a disturbing trend of low impact playoff performances for Bosh, who after a very good playoff run that first year in Miami has averaged just 14 and 7 during the last three postseasons, an extremely disappointing number any way you look at it. He has to get some of the blame for failing to be aggressive enough, but it's amazing to me after four seasons the coaching staff hasn't come up with a way to make Bosh more of a factor on offense. Bosh hasn't seemed to really be a good fit Miami's system, he's gone from a 20 and 10 player in Toronto to a 6'11 spot up shooter averaging 6 rebounds a game for the Heat. The rest of the Heat contributed almost nothing positive to this series. Chalmers was pathetic, averaging an embarrassing 4 points and 3 assists a game throughout the series, while Cole and Andersen were non factors. Lewis and Allen were decent at times, but they could hardly do enough to match the production of the Spurs bench.
So suffice to say, that was as bad a Finals performance as the Heat could have had. LeBron will unfairly get the blame for this, as all those unclutch narratives will come back and critics can gleefully point out his losing Finals record, but there wasn't much more he could have done to help the Heat win this series. I don't think ANY player (yes, including Jordan) could have won this series with the Spurs firing on all cylinders and the rest of the Heat playing as badly as they did. It looked like LeBron was back in his Cleveland days, getting absolutely no help from his teammates and the team relying solely on him to lead them to victory. LeBron left a situation like that four years ago when he was a free agent. Now that he can switch teams again this summer, the question remains whether he'll do it once again. This series leaves a lot more questions than answers, and things suddenly don't look so great in regards to Miami's future. The Heat have failed in four seasons to ever get a competent point guard or rim protector, and the bench needs to be completely revamped. Bosh has been too ineffective too often, and do we honestly expect him to start becoming a better player after the age of 30? The scariest prospect for Miami though has to be what's happened to Wade. His performance has dropped every season during the Big 3 era, and he can't even play a full season anymore. He looked like a shell of himself during most of the 2013 playoffs, and even after sitting out nearly 30 games during the regular season he completely fell apart in the Finals, and honestly looked more like 42 than 32. Yes, four straight Finals appearances and two championships are great counter arguments, but would ANY of the following sound promising to you if you were LeBron? Do I think LeBron will leave Miami? No, I'd be surprised if he did, but it seems A LOT more plausible to me than it did before the Finals started. We'll see if Pat Riley and co. can do enough to make Miami intriguing enough for LeBron and the rest of the Big 3 to stay, if not, this series could have been the culmination of one of the most captivating era's in sports history.