NBA Finals Game 5 Preview (Miami, FL) —
LeBron James made it perfectly clear what the message for the Miami Heat is going into Sunday night’s Game 5 showdown with the San Antonio Spurs, a game in which the Heat will look to win for a second straight time for the first time since beating the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
“I think it’s time. I think we’re well overdue and it’s time for us to win consecutive games,” James said at Saturday’s media session. “We’re at 11 or 12 straight where it’s just ‘win, loss, win, loss.’ I think it’s time. Enough is enough. We need to play with the same sense of urgency as if we’re down. We can’t wait around.”
It has been 11 straight playoff games without consecutive wins for the Heat, the same team that reeled off 27 in a row during the regular season.
Miami has been famously dominant after suffering losses this postseason, winning all six games following defeats by double digit margins.
But the Heat haven’t handled prosperity nearly as well as adversity in these playoffs, giving flat performances in critical games such as the 91-77 loss to Indiana in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals and an embarrassing 36-point loss to the Spurs in Game 3.
For Miami to make it back-to-back NBA championships, it will have to, at some point, put together back-to-back good performances in these finals.
“There’s no excuse why. It just hasn’t happened,” Dwyane Wade said of his team’s inability to bring its ‘A’ game in consecutive contests. “If we don’t do two (straight wins), we won’t win a championship. I wasn’t that smart in school, but I do know that. The numbers don’t add up. We have to find a way to put a string together. Hopefully, our mentality and our play in Game 4 can take over to the next game.”
Miami’s effort in Game 4’s 109-93 was arguably its best of the postseason given the caliber of opponent and the magnitude of the moment.
The Heat’s Big 3 blistered the Spurs’ usually stout defense for a combined 85 points on 37-of-64 shooting, while the Miami defense swarmed on San Antonio on the perimeter and in the paint for 13 steals, seven blocked shots, and 19 forced turnovers that led to 23 points.
Miami also outscored San Antonio in the paint 50-38, in second-chance points 12-7, and fast-break points 14-6, and outrebounded the Spurs 41-36.
But the catalyst was no doubt a dominant performance by Miami’s three All Stars in an instance of all three playing at a high level simultaneously that injuries to Wade and Chris Bosh have rendered rare in recent weeks.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve all had performances like that,” Wade said. “Obviously on this stage, it was probably our best (game) together all at the same time. It was good to see. That game was the reason we came together, so we could have moments where we all dominate at the same time, or one guy isn’t dominating and we have two other guys to do it. It was good to see Chris play the way he did at both ends of the floor, and good to see me back to doing what I could do.”
Bosh gave one of his best-ever performances in a Heat uniform, scoring 20 points and grabbing 13 rebounds while coming up with two blocks and two steals in an inspiring defensive performance. The 6-foot-11 center said he hoped that his and his teammates’ efforts would carry over into Game 5, but that’s not something that they can take for granted. “In this game, you have to go out there and be ambitious and go get it,” he said. “Really trying to rely on momentum from the last game will get in trouble. You have to create it.”
Without question the most surprising performance of the night belonged to Wade, with the 31-year-old future Hall of Famer brushing off his playoff struggles and displaying a return to his former 2006 NBA Finals MVP form with an array of beautiful driving baskets, mid-range jump shots, and transition dunks on his way to 32 points.
It was stunning to see from a player who has looked for much of the playoffs like a shell of his former self, with a bruised right knee robbing him of his trademark explosiveness and speed.
But Wade said Saturday that, injury or no injury, he had no choice but to rise to the challenge in Game 4.
“At this point, everyone is dealing with something. It’s just a time where Game 4 was a game where I needed a better performance. My team needed a better performance out of me,” he said. “If we lose that game, it’s trouble. We might not make it back to Miami. We did what we normally do. We responded when we needed to.”
The Heat will need a similar response Sunday, or else they’ll head back home a single loss away from watching the Spurs celebrate a title at American Airlines Arena.
“We’re not going to have any more letdowns for the rest of the year. We‘ve had enough,” Bosh said. “The loser tomorrow is one game away from elimination no matter how you look at it. We don’t want to be in that position again. It should be a nice little mix of fear and motivation.”
Heat forward Udonis Haslem said he didn’t see either team having a greater sense of urgency going into Sunday night with only three potential games left in the season.
“Both teams have to play with a sense of desperation, I think,” he said. “Nobody can go out there and really take it easy. I think both teams have to play like it’s Game 7 in my opinion. Every game from here on out has to be like a Game 7 intensity-wise.”