SAN ANTONIO – The Miami Heat have heard the perception over and over again that the San Antonio Spurs choked away the 2013 NBA Finals by blowing a late lead in Game 6. LeBron James is annoyed by such talk.
"I can't sit here and lie to you. …We feel slighted [by the perception], in the fact that the [series] went seven," James said on the eve of Miami's Finals rematch with the Spurs. "It went seven. It wasn't like it was 3-0 and they had us in Game 4 and we took it and won four straight. If you look at the numbers and the lead changes, the ties and the points in that series, it's almost even.
"So we did our part. They did their part. Both teams put themselves in a position to win an NBA championship, and we just happened to make one or two plays to win it."
The Spurs won NBA titles in 1999, 2003, '05 and '07 and appeared poised for a fifth. San Antonio was ahead 94-89 with 28 seconds remaining in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals in Miami and a victory away from a title. Heat fans were already departing and NBA officials began pulling a yellow tape around the floor in preparation for the championship trophy presentation.
But a late Ray Allen 3-pointer sparked a wild Miami rally that sent the game to overtime. The Heat eventually won Game 6 in stunning fashion 103-100. Miami went on to win a second straight title with a 95-88 victory in the decisive Game 7.
"It's been pretty consistent over 13 years, the way they play, their style, their culture," Shane Battier said of the Spurs. "They've run the same plays for 13 years. Some of the same sets they're running now are the same sets I was learning as a rookie. So it's just amazing continuity. The one thing that's been consistent is their excellence.
"It's rare to see a San Antonio team beat themselves. When you play this team, you know you have to play a good game and you have to go beat them."
Dwyane Wade admitted the Heat had some good fortune in Game 6, but the Spurs also had their share earlier the series. Tony Parker made a tough bank shot with 5.2 seconds left in Game 1 to hold off the Heat.
"It was unbelievable to be able to come back and win [Game 6]," Wade said. "But that's the game of basketball. You know, the ball bounces funny ways. Game 1, the shot that Tony Parker hit, that was unbelievable, to get off the ground and hit that shot and just get it off. The ball bounces in funny ways.
"And we're thankful for Ray Allen making that shot, but there were so many other things that had to play right for us to win that game. So you need a little luck, both ways, even to be in the Finals. We were the recipient of luck in that moment, but we won the championship."
The Spurs have said throughout the season that they have moved on from the Game 6 debacle. But it's clear they also haven't forgotten. Not Game 6, or in Tim Duncan's case, the key shot he missed near the end of Game 7.
"I have a very good memory, especially for my misses and losses," Duncan said. "You keep those, you learn from them and you hope to change 'em next time."
Said Danny Green: "A couple plays here and there could've changed the outcome of us having a ring and being champions instead of thinking about it every day."
Duncan said the 2013 Finals motivated the Spurs this season because the ending "left a bad taste" in their mouths. But motivation, James said, can take you only so far.
"How much motivation can carry you to a championship? I'm not sure," James said. "At the end of the day, five, 10 guys on the floor, three refs and one basketball. …You gotta make plays. I can't shoot the ball and say motivation will make it in. I can't sit in the lane and take a charge and say, 'Motivation, let me get this call.'
"Motivation, yes, can carry you to some things, I agree, because I had it a lot after we lost in 2011 to the [Dallas] Mavericks. But at the end of the day you have to play the game of basketball and do it the right way and, hopefully, you know, you can sit back and say, 'Well, I did everything it took to win. Win, lose or draw I'm satisfied with it.' "