Heat admit there's pressure, look to take care of business at home
JUN 09, 2014 9:15p ET
MIAMI -- Stepping off a plane at 4 a.m. into the hot, humid South Florida air actually felt good to the Miami Heat.
Even better was returning with a series split after two games in the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs.
The tied series is extra satisfying for the Heat, who rebounded from a Game 1 loss in which the teams played in conditions that mirrored a typical summer day in Miami after the air conditioning broke at AT&T Center.
''That's what the playoffs are about, usually it's a miserable existence,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ''Whether home or on the road, when you win on the road, it's not a joy. It's a relief.''
That's likely how the Spurs will describe their feelings on Thursday if the series remains tied after a pair of games in the Sunshine State.
Tuesday night, Miami will not only look to take its first lead in this series, but also extend its home winning streak this postseason to nine straight, 12 dating back to 2013. It was San Antonio that delivered Miami's last defeat.
And the Heat are well aware having home court advantage -- even with a functioning air conditioner and all things being normal -- provides no guarantees.
''It's not easy to do at all,'' LeBron James said. ''We just try to protect home. People don't understand it's going to be tough, going against a San Antonio team that has beat us here, in our home, in the Finals before. And we know that, so we look forward to that challenge.''
Said Miami's Chris Bosh: ''We have a very good opportunity to put their backs against the wall, and it's not going to be easy. Just knowing we have to work the game, it's going to be emotional for both teams, an extremely difficult game to play.''
Miami has been here a few times before, though. Prior to this season, the Heat twice lost the Finals opener, yet went on to capture the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy, against the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012 and San Antonio last year.
In each of its three trips to the Finals since 2011, Miami has emerged from the first two contests with a split.
Four years in high-pressure situations has helped the Heat keep everything in perspective when facing adversity -- or worse -- after a loss. Since dropping three straight to the Boston Celtics en route to an eventual Eastern Conference Championship victory in 2012, Miami is 13-0 after a postseason defeat.
''(Experience is) one think you can always lean your head on,'' Dwyane Wade said. ''It doesn't guarantee you anything, but it is comforting, knowing we've been in this position before -- these are the things we've done to get out of this position -- just because we've been here.
''That's one of the great things about being successful so many years in a row, being in the Finals, being in this situation. We've been through a lot of different scenarios -- we've been up, we've been down, being able to do it all. It helped us a lot in Game 2.''
One situation Miami has not faced is the new 2-2-1-1-1 format in the NBA Finals. No longer can a team, as Wade put it, ''come back and say, 'We've got three at home, let's wrap this thing up.' It is tough to beat a team, especially a good team, three times in a row, (even) two times in a row.''
It's also tougher when teams only get a day of rest amidst travel between cities.
Spoelstra said he'd like to see the NBA ''iron out'' the schedule in the future, giving teams multiple days between Games 2 and 3, rather than provide extra rest in one city.
Still, with strange circumstances and an odd schedule behind them, the Heat are happy to spend the next few days at home, with fans set to deliver a frenzied ''white out'' on Tuesday and Thursday.
Bosh said he can't wait to feel the ''Awesomeness, just straight awesomeness, white hot heat.''
''Coming back here in this position, we feel this is the toughest place in the world to play basketball,'' Bosh said. ''We need the fans to be who they are, turn it up a lot, a little bit more.''
If the Heat continue to deliver at home as they have been, by Friday it will be the Spurs dripping in sweat.