Miami battling history as they bid to salvage quest for third title

Jay Asser 13:19 15/06/2014
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Now or never: The onus is on LeBron James (second left) to force the result his team need to stay in the contest.

For all of the challenges the Heat have faced and overcome in their four-year run, nothing compares to this. Miami not only stand one loss away from seeing their quest for a three-peat end, but have a lot of work to do just to climb back in the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs in tonight’s Game 5.

No team trailing 3-1 in the Finals has ever come back to win the title, and with the way the Heat looked in back-to-back lopsided losses at home, their chances appear bleak.

“We put ourselves in position where it is about making history,” said LeBron James after the 107- 86 loss in Game 4 which ended Miami’s streak of 48 straight playoff games without consecutive losses.

“Obviously, I do know the numbers. It’s never been done before, but we’re still a confident bunch, even though our heads are lowered down right now. Of course, being down 3-1, and losing two straight games at home, that’s just human nature. But we’ve still got to go out and play on [Monday].”

The aforementioned streak was the calling card of the Heat, who prior to Game 4 never found themselves in a two-game hole in an active series.

Whether it was coming back from a 3-2 deficit to defeat the Boston Celtics in the 2012 Eastern Conference, or even fighting back from down 3-2 to win their second championship in last year’s Finals against this same Spurs squad, Miami have won when they’ve needed it the most.

This is a more daunting task, but one the two-time defending champions won’t back down from.

“We’ve seen our fair share of adversity. This is adversity in all caps,” said Chris Bosh. “Being in this hole is different for us, it’s different. It’s a hard pill to swallow.”

Coach Erik Spoelstra said: “Our group has been through everything you possibly can be through except for this circumstance. So why not? Why not test ourselves right now collectively?”

San Antonio have shredded Miami with their offence, shooting 58 per cent in the two games on the road. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called Game 3’s display, when his team scored a blistering 71 points in the first half, an “anomaly” but San Antonio’s attack looked every bit as potent in Game 4.

Defence is a concern for Miami, but much of it is because of the Spurs just operating efficiently.

Where the Heat have underwhelmed is on the other side of the ball, where they’ve failed to reach 100 points yet in the series. Still, even with the likelihood of winning a third title looking slim, Miami haven’t hoisted two banners already without belief.

“I don’t care about odds,” said Bosh. “Odds are for people that can’t do it.”

Five key points: 

The Miami Heat are in unchartered territory, needing to battle back from down 3-1 in the NBA Finals. Here’s five things they’ll have to do to start their comeback in Game 5:

1. Dominant LeBron
It’s not as if LeBron James (pictured) isn’t playing like his usual, spectacular self. James is averaging 27.5 points on 60 per cent shooting from the field and 61 per cent shooting on 3-pointers. What Miami need, however, is James to have one of his dominant stretches like he had in Game 2 when he dropped 35 points, or like he did in Game 6 of last year’s Finals to keep the Heat alive. It’s asking a lot of James, but the fourtime MVP is more than capable.

2. Move the ball
Miami don’t need to reach the Spurs level of ball movement to be successful, but they do need to do a better job. Credit San Antonio for their smart defence, but the Heat are getting bogged down on too many possessions and the result has been just 15.5 assists per game in the series, a huge drop off from their 22.5 mark during the regular season.

3. Point guard production
The point guard position has never been Miami’s strength, but it’s also never been as glaring of a weakness as it is right now. Mario Chalmers (pictured), who usually has a big moment or two after a bad stretch of play, is looking lost. Norris Cole isn’t faring too much better, forcing Erik Spoelstra to often use lineups without a true point guard. The Heat have to get some contribution from that position.

4. Complete the ‘Big 3’
James is doing his part, but his two running mates – Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh – have to help their team-mate carry the load. Wade averaged 19.6 points in last year’s Finals, but is down to 16.3 this time around. Bosh, meanwhile, is shooting nearly 60 per cent and making his shots count, but has to be more aggressive.

5. Force the issue in transition
The Heat need to capitalise on their limited chances in transition. The Spurs notoriously shy away from hitting the offensive boards, but the Heat have to seize any chance they can off missed San Antonio shots, as well as seeking out cross-matches. They’re dangerous in the open floor and must find ways to

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