San Antonio's offensive execution set records, and you need not crunch numbers -- just trust your eyes.
"We were outclassed," Chris Bosh said, shaking his head, after the Heat were dethroned by the San Antonio Spurs in five games.
"The only equivalent to what we saw from the Spurs in these Finals that comes to mind is Argentina's national team in the Worlds in 2002 and their gold-medal-winning 2004 Olympics squad, which moved more athletic, taller opponents around on the court with their precision passing and moving without the ball, patiently waiting for a good shot, sometimes going all the way down to the final second," noted former Puerto Rico national team head coach and now ESPN NBA analyst Carlos Morales.
The common denominator between the Spurs and Argentina's golden generation is Manu Ginóbili, often described as a gifted passer. Ginóbili truly is the NBA's most creative passer, held back only by turnovers produced by unfettered ambition. These Finals were his atonement for last season's at-times-embarrassing performance. Add Boris Diaw, described by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich as a player he did not quite know how to fully use last season, and you have two world-class passers in the Spurs' starting lineup as of Game 3. The Heat did not stand a chance.
This was the Finals of the Pass, the triumph of not only a team-building philosophy, but of a playbook that drinks deeply from many sources, including the golden generation's game and FIBA's brand of basketball. That playbook was executed by the Spurs with better athletes who were incredibly selfless, extraordinarily well-prepared and supremely motivated by failure.
San Antonio's underrated defense will be overlooked by the blowouts that defined this series. The Spurs blew out Mario Chalmers' candle early, and then went on to shut down other Heat players.
Copycats beware: To recreate what the Spurs have, you need an extremely patient owner; a head coach who constantly seeks knowledge, is open to ideas, regardless of their origin, and will not yield when it is time to establish his vision; and many years of marinating. The most important ingredient may be the most difficult to find: players who, in the words of Popovich, "are over themselves" and care not one bit about minutes, shots or dollars; men who play for their teammates and trust their coach instinctively.
The AAU culture in which American players develop is so corrosive and corrupt that talent emerges, by and large, with twisted values and a strong sense of entitlement. Good luck trying to straighten them out. San Antonio's American players include Danny Green, twice cut by San Antonio, and Kawhi Leonard, who played away from the spotlight at San Diego State. It will be very hard for an NBA team to recreate what Popovich has built over almost a generation.
Next season, San Antonio will attempt to repeat as champion, something it has never done. Even if the Spurs retain Diaw and Patty Mills, and if 2014 Finals MVP Leonard is allowed to play the pick-and-roll more often and diversify his offense, there are no guarantees.
We may never see basketball played quite like this again.