History is then and now for the San Antonio Spurs.
The Spurs won the 2014 NBA Finals with a resounding 104-87 win over LeBron James and the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the best-of-seven series at AT&T Center in San Antonio on Sunday night. A third-straight lopsided Finals victory gave the Spurs a 4-1 series triumph and avenged a heartbreaking loss to the Heat in the 2013 NBA Finals. It also brought the franchise its fifth NBA championship since it selected Tim Duncan with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft.
"We remembered what happened last year and how it felt in that locker room and we used it and built on it and got back here," Duncan told ESPN's Doris Burke on the court as the celebration whirled around him at the AT&T Center. "It's amazing. It makes last year OK."
After coming within seconds of winning the championship a year ago before an improbable Heat rally denied them, the Spurs were absolutely ruthless when it came to finishing off games in the 2014 NBA Finals. All four of the Spurs wins (Games 1, 3, 4 and 5) came by 15 or more points. They became the first team in the history of the NBA Finals to win three straight games in the same series by that margin, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
"Hard to believe, isn't it?" Spurs guard Manu Ginobili told ESPN's Stuart Scott when asked about his team's historic performance following the presentation of the Larry O'Brien Trophy by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. "We played at a really high level."
The dominant showing, defined by free-flowing passing at the offensive end and tenacity on the defensive end, halted the Heat's reign as NBA champions. The Heat arrived in San Antonio for Game 1 as the NBA's two-time defending champions. James and his teammates will leave the AT&T Center after Game 5 with their title streak snapped and facing questions about their futures. All members of the Heat's "Big Three" -- James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh -- can opt out of their contracts and become free agents during the offseason.
"It's a big disappointment," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after the season-ending defeat, via The Associated Press. "Feeling like this is an incredibly empty feeling."
With the Heat facing a 3-1 deficit coming into Game 5, James had asked "Why not us?" during a press conference on Saturday when talking about a historic comeback. When Game 5 tipped off on Sunday, the four-time NBA MVP did his best to inspire his teammates. James scored 17 points in the first quarter as the Heat jumped out to a 29-22 lead. He would finish with a game-high 31 points but the Heat could not hold off the Spurs for long. San Antonio outscored Miami 82-58 over the final three quarters to clinch the title.
While James struggled to find consistent support during the Finals, the Spurs' veteran trio -- Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli -- was backed by a roster full of contributors. As the Spurs grabbed control of the series with an emphatic Game 3 win, Kawhi Leonard emerged as the team's most impactful player. The 22-year-old dynamo excelled at both ends of the floor as San Antonio reeled off three straight wins, defending James and scoring inside and out, en route to being named the MVP of the series.
Leonard joined the Spurs in 2011, four seasons removed from the franchise's previous title. In his third NBA season, Leonard emerged as a bona fide star and proved instrumental in helping Duncan win his fifth career title. For Parker and Ginobli, the 2014 championship makes four career titles.