The Spurs say Game 5 is a must-win, and the Heat want to win two straight to get back on track.
By CHRIS TOMASSON FS Florida
SAN ANTONIO — The
Miami Heat won 27 games in a row during one stretch of the regular season.
Now, they’d just be happy with two.
The Heat haven’t won two straight since May 22. That’s when they capped a five-game winning streak that included the final four games of an Eastern Conference semifinal against Chicago and the opener of the East finals against Indiana.
Since then, they’ve gone 5-5 while alternating wins and losses. That includes the NBA Finals, which is tied 2-2 entering Sunday’s critical Game 5 against
San Antonio at the AT&T Center.
“I think it’s time,’’said
LeBron James, whose Heat won Thursday’s Game 4 109-93, about the need for a two-game winning streak. “I think we’re well overdue when it’s time for us to win consecutive games. I think we’re at 11 . . . straight consecutive win-loss, win-loss, win-loss (starting with the East finals). I think it’s time. Enough is enough for our team.’’
If the Heat don’t have a two-game winning streak before the end of the season, they won’t win a second straight championship. If they lose Sunday, they would be forced into winning Games 6 and 7 in Miami.
Still, Miami is in better shape than the
Spurs after having reclaimed home-court advantage. Even if the Heat fall behind 3-2, there is ample precedent for a team in that spot winning the final two games at home since the 2-3-2 format began in the Finals in 1985.
The Los Angeles Lakers did it against Detroit in 1988, Houston came back on New York in 1994 and the Lakers did it to Boston in 2010. No team ever has won the final two on the road to claim a seven-game Finals.
“It’s a must-win,’’ Spurs forward
Tim Duncan said of Sunday. “We don’t want to go back down there down a game with two games remaining at their house.’’
When the Heat have had a must-win situation, they have responded the past two seasons. They became the first team in NBA history last year to win a title after falling behind in three separate series. That included needing to win the final two games after trailing 3-2 in the East finals to Boston.
Miami beat Indiana earlier this month in a Game 7. And Thursday’s game was a must-win situation considering no team ever has fought back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals.
Now, even if Sunday’s game might be more important to San Antonio than Miami, the Heat have the mindset that there must be a sense of urgency.
“If we don’t do two, we won’t win a championship,’’ guard
Dwyane Wade said. “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. And, hopefully, our mentality and our play in Game 4 can take over to the next game. ... This team, we’ve always responded to a challenge and right now this is our challenge.’’
It’s odd the Heat are talking about the urgency of simply winning two in a row after during the regular season their 27-game streak was the second longest in NBA history. But the competition is now much tougher and Miami over the past few weeks hasn’t looked like the same outfit that earlier in the playoffs was a heavy favorite to hoist another Larry O’Brien Trophy.
From Feb. 3 through Game 1 against Indiana, the Heat won 46 of 49 games. Since then, they’ve gone 5-5.
Chris Bosh said about it being odd the Heat have gone so long since winning two straight. “But now is the chance to stop it. If we win two games in a row now, we have a chance to make people forget about (the recent stretch). We’ve got to make sure we do our job and win two in a row.’’
The Heat, though, are hardly the first team to have a very impressive run from the regular season into the playoffs and then fall off. At least they haven’t had a drop-off like the one San Antonio experienced last year.
The Spurs won their final 10 regular-season games and first 10 in the playoffs to have a 20-game streak. They then lost the final four games of the West finals against Oklahoma City, and their season was stunningly over.
“I don’t try to understand basketball gods or basketball since last year, when we won 20 games and then to lose four in a row,’’ San Antonio guard
Tony Parker said. “I don’t know. It’s like that. It’s hard to explain.’’
But there is one thing Parker finds easy to explain.
“It’s a must-win,’’ Parker said, agreeing with what Duncan said about Game 5.
Maybe Sunday doesn’t provide that sort of scenario for the Heat. But at some point they have a must-win-two-games-in-a-row scenario.