Enough is enough.
The Miami Heat haven't won back-to-back games in almost a month and right now it's a must if they want to repeat as NBA Champions.
Win now and take control of the NBA Finals 3-2 with two chances to beat the San Antonio Spurs just one more time at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami to win it all.
Lose and the Heat will then need to muster two victories in a row in Miami, a scenario that isn't ideal but also not as terrifying as the one the team faced if they had lost Game 4 and fallen behind 1-3.
There hasn't been any carryover effect during the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers or in the Finals after a victory or a loss, as I covered more in detail yesterday. But Heat fans wouldn't mind seeing the resurgent Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh returning for the rest of the series so the Big 3 can finally be the collective threat they were before the playoffs started. You know, the "usual" Miami Heat that crushed the NBA to the tune of a franchise-record 66 victories and the historic 27-game winning streak.
All this while the Big 3 that play in San Antonio would seem to be the ones that are now a shell of their former dominant selves. It hurts to say this as one of his biggest admirers since he arrived to the NBA, but Manu Ginobili truly looks finished. Every move of his, once fluid and assertive, is wrecked with second guessing and hesitation - making his moves to the basket as well as his passes to teammates easily nullified and making him completely ineffective. At worst, he's been a detriment to the team with his turnovers and poor shooting. He's also turning 36 next month so this isn't necessarily an issue with an injury but his struggles have clearly affected the mental side of the game, a travesty for one of the most cerebral players in the league for the past decade.
Tony Parker hasn't been as bad, of course. When he's been healthy he's had moments where he was the most dominant player in the series. The bad news for the Spurs is that his pesky hamstring might just tear at any moment out on the floor, his words. Which surely means his quickness (his biggest asset against the Heat) will be hampered and he may not choose to attack the basket as much and overexert himself for fear of aggravating his injury. Just like Manu, the Frenchman won't be at his basket if he's thinking too much.
Tim Duncan has fared the best out of the three, but along with the disappointing Tiago Splitter, has not been able to give the Spurs a big advantage with their height over the Heat. He put up 20-point games in the first and last games of the Finals and grabbed double-digit rebounds in the first three games of the series. But at times he's looked old and slow to react when the Heat have cranked up the intensity. He hasn't shot the ball particularly well so far this series, with Game 4 being the first time he shot over 45% against the Heat, but he only grabbed 5 rebounds.
With Birdman gone and Mike Miller out there instead of Udonis Haslem for the Heat, Chris Bosh was able to match Duncan's point total Thursday night while also grabbing 13 rebounds (his third straight double-digit rebound game) and was pivotal down the stretch with a pair of blocks and more room in the paint to operate. Miller's energy and playmaking abilities helped the defending champions on both ends, but his hot shooting was curiously absent. Nevertheless, Spoelstra's rotation change was largely successful and will surely be repeated Sunday night.
If LeBron can be at the top of his game while Wade and Bosh can play at their level, it's easy to say that the Heat have an excellent chance to take control of this series before it takes the final stage in Miami. But little has been predictable for this team during the playoffs so anything can and will happen.
Tipoff time is 8:00 PM and ABC has the broadcast.
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