LeBron James dominated on both ends of the floor to lead the Miami Heat to their second straight NBA championship, scoring 37 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in a 95-88 victory here over the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
The Heat superstar also silenced those who doubted his ability to perform in the clutch when he connected on an outside shot with 28 seconds remaining to give his team a virtually insurmountable 92-88 lead.
Miami held a slim one-point advantage Thursday night heading into the fourth quarter when guard Mario Chalmers banked in a 3-pointer from nearly half court, but gradually pulled away over the final 12 minutes to the delight of the crowd at American Airlines Arena.
Besides the outstanding effort by James, who made the Spurs pay for their sagging defense by making five of his 10 shots from 3-point range, reserve swingman Shane Battier had a huge night with 18 points in 29 minutes of play, all of them coming on 3-pointers.
Dwyane Wade also overcame two balky knees to give James some much-needed support, tallying 23 points - 14 of them in the first half - and also hauling down 10 boards.
The other member of the "Big 3," Chris Bosh, failed to score a single point on five shot attempts but contributed defensively and on the boards with seven rebounds.
Veteran power forward Tim Duncan led the way for the Spurs with 24 points and 12 rebounds, but star point guard Tony Parker struggled against James' defense and chipped in only 10.
The loss was difficult to swallow for the Spurs, who had the championship in their grasp in Game 6 but let a five-point lead with 28 seconds remaining slip away due to missed free throws and a clutch 3-pointer by Heat veteran Ray Allen with five seconds remaining in regulation.
The Heat then went on to win that contest in overtime and force a Game 7.
The championship was the second for James, a four-time league Most Valuable Player who on Thursday was named NBA Finals MVP for the second straight season.
James came to Miami from the Cleveland Cavaliers after the 2010 season, joining Wade and Bosh to form a "Big 3" amid much hoopla and predictions of multiple championships.
It was the third title overall for the Heat, who also won the championship in 2006 when Wade was their biggest star.
The Spurs were seeking their fifth NBA title, the other four all coming since Duncan joined the team out of college in 1997. EFE