On Sunday night the San Antonio Spurs got within one victory of their fifth NBA Title in the last decade-and-a-half. If the Spurs beat Miami tonight, or Thursday, we will politely applaud Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, and Greg Popovich for about as long as it takes David Stern to present San Antonio with the Larry O'Brien Trophy. What they've done as a franchise is amazing. We'll spend the next three to four months lambasting LeBron James and questioning what went wrong with Miami. Despite needing to win back-to-back games to capture the title, the Heat are the favorite to do exactly that in Las Vegas, and their recent past suggests that they will win the title, albeit not nearly as easily as some thought it might come.
Miami has gone 8-0 in virtual must win games since the start of last year's playoffs. They have won those games by an average margin on 19.9 points per contest. Let's take a look at the recent past and see if it holds the truth about what we might see in the remainder of this series.
Trailing Indiana two games to one in the semifinals last season, the Heat needed to win on the road to avoid backing themselves against a wall. LeBron scored 40 points, grabbed 18 rebounds, and handed out nine assists in a 101-93 victory. Miami won the battle of the boards by nine, and out-shot the Pacers in the win.
Needing back-to-back wins in games six and seven of last year’s conference finals, Miami beat Boston 98-79 and 101-88 to advance to the NBA Finals. During the game six win in Boston, the Celtics were limited to 16 first quarter points, LeBron exploded for 45 points and 15 rebounds, and Paul Pierce was held to four of 18 shooting. The Celtics were one of 14 from behind the three point arc, and the Heat out-rebounded and out-shot Boston. The Celtics led game seven 53-46 at halftime and 82-81 with eight minutes remaining. Then James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh took over. The trio had all 28 of Miami's fourth quarter points, and the Celtics were limited to three of 12 shooting down the stretch while Miami went seven for 13 in the final eight minutes. Again Miami out-shot, and out-boarded the C's.
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The Heat dropped game one of the Finals to Oklahoma City last season, but made sure to bring the series back to Miami even by winning game two 100-96. The Thunder were limited to 15 first quarter points and LeBron got help from Bosh. James tallied 32 points while Bosh went for 16 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. The Heat outscored OKC by 16 points in the paint.
This year Miami lost game one at home against Chicago in the conference semis but set the tone for the rest of the series winning game two 115-78. The Heat shot 60 percent from the floor and limited the Bulls to 36 percent shooting. Miami had a 13 rebound advantage, and went on a 62-20 run starting late in the second quarter. The win marked the largest margin of victory for Miami during a playoff game in franchise history.
After the Heat failed to close out Indiana on the road in game six of the conference finals, they blitzed the Pacers 99-76 at home in game seven. Miami didn't shoot well in the game, but they forced 21 Pacer turnovers, and shot 33 of 38 from the free throw line while Indiana managed just 14 of 20 from the charity stripe. LeBron had 32 point and Wade added 21 as the Heat moved on to play San Antonio.
After the Spurs beat Miami in game one of the NBA Finals, the Heat bounced back with 103-84 victory in game two. Tim Duncan was held to three of 13 shooting and Tony Parker managed just five of 14 from the floor. Meanwhile the Heat forced 16 turnovers while giving it away just six times, and Mario Chalmers tallied 19 points in the win. LeBron added 17 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists.
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Trailing the series 2-1 Miami dominated game four's fourth quarter. The Heat outscored San Antonio 28-17 in the final period and won the game 109-93. Miami shot 53 percent in the victory, forced 18 turnovers while only committing nine, LeBron had 33 points and Wade added 32. It once again evened the series.
The Heat are back in a familiar position. Miami must win to keep the season alive. The Heat went 37-4 at home during the regular season. They haven't lost two straight in more than five months. The last time Miami dropped a game six or seven at home was three years ago when the Mavericks won game six to to capture the title. The Heat have been a different team the last two years than they were when Dallas beat them. I'm betting on the Heat of the last two years showing up and winning games six and seven. So is Las Vegas.