SAN ANTONIO, TEX. - A lot can change quickly at the NBA Finals.
The Spurs were on the way to another ring following Game 1.
Miami had woken up and was going to cruise after Game 2.
Then the Spurs crushed the Heat in Game 3 and the tone changed again.
That loss left the Heat angry, self-loathing and in a hole.
But now that Miami’s Game 4 bounce-back is in the books, the Heat is all wide smiles and the Spurs are wondering if they can find a way to deal with Miami’s tough defence going forward.
And, also, which LeBron James or Dwyane Wade will show up from here.
The James/Wade combo that connected on 12 total mid-range shots through the first three games (on 48 attempts), or the guys who pulverized the Spurs on 12-of-22 mid-range shots Thursday.
After averaging 43.3 combined points in the series, James, Wade and Chris Bosh scored 85 points.
Finally, with their jumpers falling, things opened up for James and Wade, who were able to get close to the rim for a change.
The thinking was James was due to go off, but nobody saw Wade’s brilliance coming, not with him limping through the playoffs on a bad knee.
But the Heat always seems to find a way to respond to a loss.
“They have that ability to kick it up a notch, where most teams don’t,” explained Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.
“That’s something that we pride ourselves on. And we really concentrate. When things get rough and they’re not going like you want them to go, that’s when we pull together even more,” said Bosh after his best game of the series.
“And we just rely on each other to pick it up.”
By now you know Miami is 12-0 following a loss since last dropping two straight back in January.
But, not as publicized, is Miami’s 5-5 record over its past 10 and its inability to win consecutive games in recent weeks.
No better time than the present to make a change.
“(Friday) it’s about a mental break, but (Saturday at practice) we’re going to be real about it. And, yes, the most significant factor, it’s been the competition for the last two weeks, Indiana and now with San Antonio,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
“But there has to be a point where enough is enough. And we have to try to fight for a breakthrough. So that’s what (Saturday) will be about.”
If Miami lays another egg following a win, the team’s season could be all but over.
Sure, the Los Angeles Lakers lost Game 5 in 2010, yet, came back to beat the Celtics, but Dallas beat Miami in Game 5 in 2011 and then clinched the series. Of the 27 NBA Finals tied 2-2, the Game 5 winner has won the series 20 times.
That’s why Bosh doesn’t want the Heat to change a thing.
“I think we just have to stay in the place that we’re in. Whatever place that we were in after we got smashed on our Game 3, we need to stay there. We need to know what got us this win and we need to keep it. We need to think about it. And we need to continue to talk about it so we can keep that edge and bring the necessary energy for Sunday.”
On the flip side, Popovich would love to see his charges be consistent in consecutive games as well.
He said teams always say the right things about how they will avoid a let-down and not just be satisfied with a big win, then lose, often badly.
“You lose a game like we did in Game 2, and we come back and beat them in Game 3 and look like they looked last night. That’s what drives me crazy. Because as coaches, you try to prevent that. You would like to be a little more on an even keel and perform the same way each night,” Popovich said.
“And the only thing I can tell myself after all these years is you’re dealing with people, with emotions, and not robots. They come out and they all play hard, but there’s that little intangible, that little spark of intensity or back against the wall or a little bit of fear that just seems to kick in when you’ve lost the previous game. And when you find teams that can get over that, those are the championship teams.”
And, one of these teams will again by a championship unit.
We just don’t yet know which one.
BOSH NO GAME 4 FLOP
Most people are going to remember the embarrassing flop, but Chris Bosh’s Game 4 was much more than that.
While LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were clearly performing at spectacular levels Thursday, Bosh had a more understated, but still pivotal performance.
With both teams mostly going small, Bosh was far more effective, picking up 20 points, pulling down 13 rebounds and collecting a couple of steals and blocks.
Bosh said he was able to get into the paint more and it opened up his offensive game.
It was his third straight double-double, after just two total over the first three rounds of the playoffs.
“I don’t really pay too much attention to the numbers … I want to play to the best of my ability. And sometimes that doesn’t happen,” Bosh said.
“You’re going to have bad games in a long stretch, especially during the playoffs. And that’s when you kind of really have to trust your game and trust what got you here.”
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra appreciated the points Bosh provided, but singled him out for his defence, particularly on Tim Duncan. While Duncan scored 20 points, he was held to one assist and just five rebounds.
“Battling against a Hall-of-Famer and then helping us clean up the glass really gave us a boost,” Spoelstra said.
Bosh was fined $5,000 U.S. Friday by the NBA for his theatrics.