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HEAT must focus on one game at a time

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As Miami looks to take on the Spurs on Sunday in Game 5, things appear bleak. However, it's essential that the Heat regard the coming games in the short term in order to capture the necessary three straight wins.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

This isn't impossible:

I've seen a similar situation before, just a few short weeks ago actually. My hometown Montreal Canadiens, lost their starting goalie Carey Price and things appeared hopeless. As much as they fought to keep their heads up, the Canadiens dropped two games at home and were down 3-1, Montreal of course pushed the series to six in a spectacular Game 5 before burning out in an uninspired Game 6 in New York. While I felt sadness of course, I marvelled at what my hockey team was able to accomplish in reaching the Eastern Conference Finals, when they weren't even projected to reach the postseason. New York however, in the series before had defeated the Penguins after being down 3-1.

Following the Canadiens' loss I quickly shifted my attention back to basketball as Miami found themselves in the Finals yet again. My favorite basketball team dismantled the Indiana Pacers, and were in position to complete the ever elusive three-peat. But since then, Miami find themselves down 3-1 and staring down a grisly narrow corridor.

However, it's not an impossible situation. Of course hockey and basketball are completely different sports, but an athlete's capacity for heart isn't measured in wins, but how they respond to losing. The Canadiens, are not the Miami Heat. The Heat are coming off of two championship seasons, because they know how to respond to adversity, and like any animal they are most dangerous when backed against the wall. If there is anything I've learned in watching the NHL playoffs, it's that the 3-1 series lead is the most dangerous lead in sports. This Miami Heat are one of the best teams in this league, and while they haven't showed it in the last two games I have no doubt that they will be able to come through next game.

One game at a time:

The worst thing the Miami Heat could possible do at this point is dwell on the bigger picture. The mentality should be present within the locker room is that they have one game to win Sunday night. While of course the stress of it being the potential last game of the Finals should resonate within them in order to instil a sense of motivation, but short term thinking alleviates a lot of the pressure. Obviously, the Heat are capable of winning one game against the Spurs and they just did it in San Antonio days ago. It's just one game. Right? They could do that three times, their preparation should concede it. Pressure has been something the Heat have dealt with since 2011, and they have responded each time so why is now any different?

Changes & Team Play:

The Miami Heat of 2005-2006 are my favorite Miami Heat team of all time. Having attended to my first NBA basketball game in 2003 at the AmericanAirlines Arena, I became a Heat fan for life. Three years later here they were doing great things, but not at first. Travelling back to Miami for Game 3, all the momentum belonged to the Dallas Mavericks. That is until the final minutes of Game 3 where Miami rallied back to erase a thirteen-point deficit and steal Dallas' momentum for the rest of the series.

Miami proceeded to win four straight games to capture their first NBA finals, and despite Dwyane Wade's spectacular performance the championship didn't completely belong to him. This blue collar NBA team was filled with role players who stepped up in times of need - Jason Williams, Gary Payton, Shaquille O'Neal, James Posey, Antoine Walker and Alonzo Mourning all played their role to the fullest, something that can't be said of our current roster at this point in the Finals.

The fact of the matter is this Miami Heat is filled with great players who are under-performing. Dwyane Wade, my favorite player (and the one I am most quickly to defend), appeared atrocious last game, and is unfortunately doing his best James Harden impersonation on defense. Wade is perhaps the most influential Heat player of all time, and in his basketball career has become elite because of his capacity to play on both ends of the floor. Since the debut of the "Big-Three-era" Wade has started to decline, but in doing so has prolonged his longevity this season through a maintenance plan which worked for the majority of this postseason. If Miami is going to win tomorrow tonight, it won't be all on LeBron James. Option number 2 will have to step up and do less of this:

and do more of this

If Wade's Finals woes demonstrate anything it's that defense is the key to winning these next three games, and in order to accomplish that changes in the lineup need to be defense-centric. That requires the return of both Shane Battier, and Udonis Haslem. They are arguably Miami's best defenders and will be imperative in slowing down the Spurs slick offense.

Selfishness should also be a thing of the past. If the Spurs have showed anything in their recent dominance of the Heat it's that sharing the ball can tear apart even the best defensive teams. Miami seems to have abandoned that in their own offense and the final box score proves it. There is no more time for one-on-one play, or forced shots. Sometimes the extra pass is indispensable, especially when your starting point guard cannot hit the side of a barn from beyond the arc.

It's not over yet:

Realistically, there is no time to lose. If Coach Erik Spoelstra recognizes deficiencies in any lineup, he needs to get them out right away. Miami's roster is moderately deep, yet we haven't seen most players in action in a long time. All I'm requesting is in a scoring slump (like that of Game 3's fourth quarter) alternating LeBron out for an instant offense player like Michael Beasley while LeBron regains his composure.

This could be the end, but as aforementioned Miami has faced adversity before. Like it or not, the Heat are the underdogs for the first time in years. This is their greatest test, and will only be passed one game at a time. However the pace needs to be set from tomorrow's tip off. With the finish line fading, Miami needs to cut the breaks, and floor it.

*cue the Rocky Music