Not all is lost for the Heat. The two-time champs still have a chance to take the NBA Finals back to Miami.
Gregg Popovich may decide to sit Timmy, Tony and Manu for Game 5. Pop has done it before.
The 2014 Finals are over. History tells us that no one team has come back from a 3-1 deficit to win in the Finals. The past doesn’t need to be referenced here. After digesting those two games in Miami, why bother Elias or dig into league archives?
The proof isn’t in what has happened before. It’s about what we’ve seen in the now from the San Antonio Spurs. The perfect basketball machine is substantiating the concept that the sum is greater than its parts. That there is still room in the NBA for teamwork, beautiful teamwork, within a collection of highly-paid athletes in today’s me-first generation.
This isn’t about Bought vs. Built. Given the choice, the Spurs gladly would have scooped up LeBron James in free agency. Maybe Chris Bosh, too. This is about a San Antonio squad finding a new level of efficiency with each passing playoff series.
"I just think we’re playing Spurs basketball," Tony Parker said. "We’re just moving the ball, and we’re just playing the way we’ve been playing all season. We’d like to do a ‘good to great,’ the extra pass, and we preach that, and right now we’re clicking."
The Spurs are no David to the Heat’s Goliath. The Spurs had the league’s best record. They’ve gone to the playoffs 17 consecutive seasons. They’ve won at least 50 games for the last 15.
What they’ve done through five games of the Finals is an extension of what they’ve done throughout this season. The Spurs fashioned winning streaks of 19 and 11 games this season. No one on the team averaged at least 30 minutes a game, a first in NBA history. That’s depth and trust.
The ultimate reward is on the table Sunday night at AT&T Center. Another victory and the Spurs finalize their fifth title since 1999 and first since 2007, underscoring the franchise’s sustained excellence and willingness to reinvent itself in a changing basketball climate.
Those 1999 Spurs captured the title with a 78-77 win over New York. Defense was their calling card behind Tim Duncan and David Robinson. The Spurs scored more than 89 points just once in the five-game series and shot 44.5 percent as a team.
While Popovich and the Spurs have never abandoned their defensive base, an offensive revolution is several years in the making. San Antonio is averaging 106 points on 54-percent shooting against the Heat. The Spurs blew the Heat out twice in Miami to put this series on the brink.
"We didn’t plan on that, but we thought that we could come in here and win these games," Duncan said after Game 4. "We’ve won games on the road in the playoffs, and we thought we could win here. We hoped to win two, obviously, but we were happy to win one."
It’s been suggested that if any team can win three straight, it’s one fronted by LeBron James. The Heat’s problems don’t start with LeBron. Other than cramps and a few extra trips to the John, the four-time league MVP isn’t too blame. He’ll surely take it, though.
What have we’ve seen from Dwyane Wade or Bosh or Ray Allen? Is there even another player on that roster worth mentioning for not stepping up?
And now the Spurs just need one more. The byproduct of the Finals moving from 2-3-2 to 2-2-1-1-1 is an early chance to clinch the Drive for Five in San Antonio.
"Great position for us, obviously, going back home with a closeout game," said Duncan, the NBA’s all-time playoff leader in double-doubles and minutes. "They’re a very, very good ballclub. Obviously, they’re the champions, and they’re going to come out and show a lot of fire and come with a lot of energy.
"We’re going to use our homecourt and we’re going to come with the same focus that we did in these last two games, and hopefully close it out at home."
The Spurs were leading the Heat 3-2 last June. No one needs to remind the Spurs what happened next, even if they’re reminded about it daily.
"Every time you go to the NBA Finals and you don’t win, it’s tough," Parker said. "It was a great motivation, but at the same time, each year it’s different. That’s why since the beginning of those Finals I’ve said it’s a rematch, because you know we have a lot of respect for Miami. They’re the two-time champs, they’re a great team, and there is still one more game.
"We have to win one more game. So we just have to stay focused, and we’ll be ready. We just have to think about last year. We don’t need more motivation than that."