In the wake of the 2014 NBA Finals, the Miami Heat's parting line was a telling one. From LeBron James to Erik Spoelstra, from Chris Bosh to Shane Battier, the mantra was all the same: "We lost to a better team."
That much was obvious after the San Antonio Spurs delivered the most dominant Finals performance in NBA history after adjusting for the opponent. The two-time defending champs looked completely outmatched during the final stretch of their three-peat quest. The Spurs trailed for only 47 of the 240 total minutes in the series.
But we shouldn't be totally surprised at the Finals outcome. If you look at NBA history, you'll find the thrashing the Heat absorbed wasn't far from the norm when it comes to three-peat quests. Logging all of those miles can take a toll. Sure, the early 2000s Los Angeles Lakers pulled it off and Jordan's Chicago Bulls did it twice. But the 2011 Lakers, 1996 Houston Rockets, 1991 Detroit Pistons and 1989 Lakers all got swept in their three-peat quests.
Of that group, only the 1989 Lakers even made it as far as the Finals.
The question is what comes next. The first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one in the first place. The Heat seem to acknowledge some issues, pointing out that the Spurs were simply the better team. How do they solve those issues and become the better team next season? They can start by copying the Spurs' blueprint.
Here are three lessons from the Spurs' model.
1. Bring Dwyane Wade off the bench
In his Game 5 postgame news conference, Dwyane Wade insisted "nothing physically at all" was bothering him in the Finals. His play said otherwise. He shot just 43.8 percent over the entire series and missed 13 of his 15 shots in the paint over the last two games, according to ESPN Stats & Info tracking. That last bit -- the misses in the paint -- seems almost impossible to pull off.