By ANSON WHALEY
On Sunday night, the San Antonio Spurs captured their fifth NBA championship. Tim Duncan has been a part of all five, and guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have each claimed four. The Spurs' 'Big Three', along with head coach Gregg Popovich, are the ones most responsible for the franchise's success. However, San Antonio captured their most recent title with significant contributions from others.
Leading the way was the NBA Finals' Most Valuable Player, Kawhi Leonard. Leonard wasn't only contributing for the team but starring for them. The forward led the Spurs in scoring in each of the team's final three contests and after averaging a modest 12.8 points in the regular season, bumped that up to 17.8 in the series. He also did his part on the glass, particularly in the final two games, leading San Antonio in rebounds with 12 per night. The Spurs routed Miami in the last three games of the Finals and Leonard's play may have been the biggest reason.
While Tony Parker struggled in Game 5, his counterpart, Patty Mills, flourished. Parker missed his first ten attempts from the field before rebounding to score 16 points, but Mills had a big game with 17 points, including five three-pointers. Mills also contributed 14 in Game 4 and over those two games, was 9-of-14 from long-range.
Reserve big man Boris Diaw was another player who stepped up for San Antonio. Diaw scored less, but contributed big minutes and had a particularly good series on the glass. Diaw is often known as somewhat of a perimeter player, but was a monster on the boards, hauling in 8.6 per game - more than double what he contributed in the regular season (4.1). As if that weren't enough, he narrowly missed a triple double in Game 4 with eight points, nine rebounds, and nine assists.
Others also stepped up with big individual efforts. Center Tiago Splitter had a relatively light series, but had 14 points in only 23 minutes of the team's big opening win. Guard Danny Green also wasn't a huge factor, but had a big Game 3 with 15 points and five steals. In the five game series, Green also knocked down nine three-pointers.
In contrast, the performances of those players stood out even more when you consider what other key players on the Miami Heat accomplished. Starting point guard Mario Chalmers averaged a meager 4.4 points and had 10 turnovers to only 13 assists. The Birdman Chris Andersen, often a catalyst for Heat comebacks, was virtually invisible, scoring only 2.6 points a game. Ray Allen had a decent series overall, but shot only 41 percent over the five games and when Miami needed him most in Game 5, he turned in a 1-of-8 night from the field.
Not only did San Antonio's role players give quite a bit, but the Heat's were borderline non-existent.
Make no mistake about it - without the Big Three, the Spurs don't win another championship. After all, a team led by players like Leonard, Diaw, and Mills would look more like one bound for the NBA Draft Lottery. As role players, though, their big performances were key to the franchise's fifth title.
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