SAN ANTONIO — Sorry to disappoint you, but the 2014-15 NBA season is over.
Spare us the pretense of training camp, the regular season and the playoffs if the San Antonio Spurs return intact after dissecting the world’s second-best team like a chilled, dripping laboratory frog.
What we witnessed in these Finals was not just championship basketball, but Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” Monet’s “Woman with a Parasol.” And some people try to pass off soccer as the beautiful game.
“They played the best basketball I’ve ever seen,” Miami Heat forward-center Chris Bosh said Sunday night in what qualified as an understatement after San Antonio’s series-clinching 104-87 rout in Game 5.
The Spurs’ dominance could be seen in the numbers and every other measure of greatness. They outscored Miami, the two-time defending champion, by 70 points over five games, a Finals record. They made 52.76% of their shots, also a record. And they won 12 playoff games by 15 or more points, a single-season record.
Add it up and you’ve got a team that can’t be stopped, provided Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili come back for one more season and the supporting cast continues its slow, hospitable takeover.
“That is the beauty of the team that we’ve had this year,” Duncan said. “We’ve had 10, 12 guys with the ability to step in and make a difference.”
Finals most valuable player Kawhi Leonard did it with his defense, rebounding and assertiveness on offense despite zero plays being called for him. Boris Diaw did it with his passing and his court savvy. Patty Mills did it with his fearlessness and his knockdown three-point shooting.
Even the Spurs were in awe of what they were doing.
“Sometimes I felt like saying, ‘Wow, this is sweet,’” Ginobili said. “It was really fun to play like this. It was really fun to watch when I was on the bench. I think we played a really high level. We shared the ball maybe as never before. Seeing how involved and how important everybody that was part of the team felt made it even more special.”
Leonard’s award was all the more impressive considering he was a nonfactor for the series’ first two games. Afterward, Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich told Leonard to forget about the pedigree of his more established teammates.
“‘The hell with Tony, the hell with Manu, you play the game,’” Popovich said, recalling the conversation. “‘You are the man. You’re part of the engine that makes us go.’”
The 22-year-old Leonard was more than part of the equation, soaring to dunk a Mills miss in Game 4 and rising for the three-pointer midway through the second quarter that put the Spurs ahead to stay in Game 5. He averaged 23.7 points over the final three games of the series.
“It just feels like a dream to me,” Leonard said after hugging his mother and breaking into a rare smile as his teammates playfully smacked him all over his body upon the MVP announcement.
Defending Leonard must have seemed frightening to the Heat with his wingspan of a 7-footer and hands bigger than anyone on Mount Olympus.
The Spurs qualify as the great American success story precisely because they have players who hail from Australia, France, Argentina, Brazil, Canada and Italy in addition to the United States.
Credit Popovich, General Manager R.C. Buford and owner Peter Holt in addition to the team’s foreign legion.
“The guys have character,” Popovich said. “They play the game the way we ask them to play it. They don’t get too excited if they’re doing well, and they don’t get too down if things are going badly. They just try to execute.”
Spurs fans quickly snapped up T-shirts reading “NOT 1-NOT 2-NOT 3-NOT 4-BUT 5 CHAMPIONSHIPS” after the silver-and-black confetti fell from the rafters Sunday, the phrase lampooning the presumptuous title counting of Miami’s LeBron James upon his arrival in South Beach in the summer of 2010.
It wasn’t as much a dig on James as a boast about the Spurs’ achievements thanks to Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and their largely underappreciated understudies.
“We’re a true team,” Parker said, “and everybody contributes.”
Even their kids. When Duncan ascended the podium in the interview room after winning his fifth championship, he was accompanied by his children. Asked what they thought of their father, daughter Sydney said, “I think he did awesome and he tried his best.”
Son Draven needed a bit more prompting, with Duncan telling him to say “something nice about me.”
Said Draven: “I like his hat.”
It was a championship souvenir Duncan will get to wear again a year from now, as long as he sticks around.