MIAMI — The Miami Heat were strong title favorites to start the season. But given a choice then, center Chris Bosh would have taken their current predicament.
Down 3-2, they’ve got to win two straight Finals games at home over the San Antonio Spurs to defend their crown.
“If you would have told this team at the beginning of the season that, ‘Hey, you win two games at home to win a championship,’ I’m going to take that bet,” said Bosh, whose team must win Game 6 Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena to force a Game 7 on Thursday. “So we’re confident.”
If history is any indication, it’s a 37.5 percent proposition facing the Heat. Since the 2-3-2 format began in 1985, three teams in eight chances have won the final two games at home to claim the series 4-3.
There are people in the Heat organization to turn to regarding when it has and hasn’t been accomplished. The three teams to have come back are the Los Angeles Lakers in 1988 over Detroit, Houston in 1994 against New York and the Lakers in 2010 over Boston.
Heat president Pat Riley coached the Lakers in 1988 and Knicks in 1994. Guard Ray Allen played for the Celtics in 2010.
“Game 6, you can’t wait thinking we got Game 6 and 7 (at home),” Allen said about sizing the scenario now facing Miami. “Game 6 is the most important game. So you can’t get comfortable and think going home is the saving grace for us.”
Allen indicated the Celtics were too comfortable when they dropped Games 6 and 7 to the Lakers in 2010. He said heading to Los Angeles he was “giddy because I felt we had two to win one.”
Giddy is a description that never has been used about San Antonio. The Spurs, who won Game 5 114-104 Sunday night at the AT&T Center, figure to remain on an even keel as they go for their fifth championship in 15 years.
Of the five times teams fell short when they trailed 3-2 and had to win the last two Finals games at home, the Heat were involved in two of them. They won Game 6 in Dallas in 2006 to claim the series 4-2. And they lost Game 6 at home to the Mavericks in 2011 to lose 4-2.
Now, they’re in the same predicament as then, the first season of the Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh. The Heat soon will find out how much has changed.
“We’re going to see if we’re a better team than we were our first year together,” James said.
The Heat lost Game 6 two years ago 105-95. They watched the Mavericks celebrate on their home floor, a scenario they obviously don’t want repeated.
“We have to protect our home floor,” Bosh said. “We feel we’re the best home team in the league. We’re really going to have to show it and win some games. It’s (that) simple.”
Miami went 37-4 at home during the regular season, second-best in the NBA. While one reason is the competition has been better, the Heat haven’t been as dominant at AmericanAirlines Arena in the playoffs. They’ve gone 8-3, including a 92-88 loss to the Spurs in Game 1 of the Finals.
If the Heat can get to a Game 7, that could bode well since home teams have won five straight Game 7s in the Finals, the last road team winning being Washington at Seattle in 1978. Then again, the Heat haven’t won two or more consecutive games since they claimed Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against Indiana way back on May 22.
“This is not a bad reason at all to go home for Game 6 on your home floor,” said a still-confident Wade. “I like our chances, just like they like their chances in this series and in Game 6. We’ll see which team, which style, is going to prevail.”
Now, it’s Heat coach Erik Spoelstra’s turn to tinker. He went small by starting Mike Miller in a 109-93 win in Game 4. Then Spurs coach Gregg Popovich countered by going small with Manu Ginobili in the lineup for Game 5. All Ginobili did was score 24 points, just six less than what he had combined to muster in the first four games.
While Spoelstra wouldn’t tip his hand, he could go back to power forward Udonis Haslem over Miller for the lineup that mostly was used during Miami’s 27-game regular-season winning streak. That could allow big man Chris Andersen, whose energy really ignites the home crowd, to get back in the rotation after sitting out the past two games.
“You just go play Game 6,” Popovich said. “There’s no magic to it. It’s basketball. It’s not that complicated. Both teams will compete their fannies off. Players will play well or poorly. Coaches will try to help them as much as possible, and the best team will end up winning.”
If Popovich wins his fifth title, it would be in similar fashion to the past ones. The Spurs never have trailed in any of their Finals and that would remain the case unless they drop the final two.
If the Heat win the title, it would be in similar fashion to last year, when they became the first team in NBA history to win a championship after trailing in three series. This postseason, they’ve trailed in two series and needed a Game 7 to survive the Pacers.
“I don’t want to say it’s like business as usual,” Bosh said about the Heat seeming to need adversity to thrive. “That means we’re playing with the game and we’re not being really thankful to the game and just, ‘Ah, we’ll come back next game and we’ll win.”‘
Nevertheless, two games at home to win another title. Bosh will take that.