MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – After a dismal performance in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, the Heat have to bounce back quickly to try and take a 3-2 lead in the series before it returns to Miami.
Much of the blame for Game 4’s loss fell on the shoulders of Heat star LeBron James. LeBron managed just 8 points in the game and has seen his scoring drop in each of the Heat’s first four NBA Finals games.
“These are two teams trying to figure out a way to make plays down the stretch,” James said. “We’ve seen in this series a seven- or eight-point lead is nothing. You just got to continue to execute offensively, continue to grind defensively, and put yourself in the best possible chance to win late.”
Unfortunately for the Heat, they’ve been more than willing to put Dallas in the best position to win late. The Heat have squandered double-digit leads several times in the first four games and in each of the last three games have allowed the Mavericks to storm back to tie the game near the end of the fourth quarter.
Part of that falls to LeBron, who went from being the best closer in the game during the Eastern Conference semifinals and finals to being totally invisible during the fourth quarter of the last three games of the NBA Finals.
“Obviously, we’d like to get him involved,” Spoelstra said. “He’s a very important piece to what we do. So we’ll work to help make it easier for him in the next game.”
LeBron isn’t worried about getting back in rhythm for Game 5, and neither are his teammates.
“We need him,” said Heat power forward Chris Bosh. “So everything else will be fine after that. He just has to go and play.”
Part of James’ game will be to get Tyson Chandler into foul trouble by driving to the basket and making the Mavericks’ 7’1” center foul him. Dallas doesn’t have a reliable big man behind Chandler, so getting him into early foul trouble will open up the lane more.
But Dwyane Wade will have to continue to play his game and attack as well. Wade is averaging more than 29 points per game and 8 rebounds per game. While the Heat has to get LeBron involved offensively, they can’t sacrifice production from Wade and Bosh to do it.
Dallas has been riding the big shoulders of Dirk Nowitzki through the series. The Heat have been putting double-teams on Nowitzki sporadically through the Finals. Keeping Dirk in check is not going to happen completely, but the Heat has to make him take lots of shots to get his 25-30 points.
Doing so will get the Heat into their transition game and make the Mavericks run with the Heat. It’s easier said than done as the Mavs have turned up their defensive intensity, especially in their zone defense.
If Miami goes down 3-2 with a loss in Game 5, it may be too little, too late for the Heat to try and mount a comeback in Game 6 to force a Game 7.
There are some who desperately want a Game 7. ABC and its local affiliates in Dallas and Miami are enjoying record ratings, as is the NBA across the nation during the Finals. Plus, the AmericanAirlines Arena and ticket brokers will rake in cash for Games 6 and a possible Game 7 in Miami.
But, Heat fans are ready for this series to be over and are getting more and more nervous with each Heat loss. The Heat stand just 2 victories away from an NBA title, but their lackadaisical play in Games 2 and 4 have put the Mavericks also just 2 victories away from a championship.
Miami and Dallas will square off again in Dallas on Thursday night for Game 5. Tip-time is set for 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
Game 6 will be played at the AAA Sunday night with an 8:00 p.m. tip-time, and tickets are already on sale. If Game 7 is necessary, it will also be played at the AAA next Tuesday night with a tip-time of 9:00 p.m.