Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Four games are all that stands between the Miami Heat and joining some of the most elite teams in NBA history. The Heat need four wins to successfully win back-to-back championships for the first time in team history.
The teams that have won back-to-back title is small and includes who’s who of some of the greatest teams to ever step foot on the court.
“That’s a small number. It’s tough,” Wade said. “Obviously, it’d be the Bulls. The Lakers. The Pistons. And is it the Spurs? No, the Rockets. Wow, that’s tough.”
Over the last 25 years, only the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons, and Los Angeles Lakers have successfully defended their NBA championship. Miami’s follow-up season to its championship in 2005 was abysmal, but this year the Heat is back in the Finals ready to defend.
Their opponent in the NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs, is also no stranger to the Larry O’Brien trophy. The Spurs have won four championships in a nine-year period, but haven’t won the title since 2007 when the Spurs took down the Cleveland Cavaliers led by LeBron James.
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich knows that getting past the Heat will require maximum effort on the court both mentally and physically from his team.
“They are not just athletic. They are intelligent in what they do,” Popovich said. “They execute on both an individual basis and a team basis. That’s what makes them good.”
For the Heat, they are tried and tested not only in the regular season, but now the playoffs. Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said that if the team wasn’t all-in before, after being taken to the limit by the Indiana Pacers, they are all in now.
One player the Heat will need to be all-in is the aforementioned Wade. He has struggled through much of the playoffs, scoring just 14.1 points per game on 45 percent shooting after playing at a very high level throughout the regular season.
Wade has been dealing with a deep bruise on his right knee that has lasted for most of the last three months. Even with rest, Wade has been unable to shake the problems the knee injury has inflicted upon his typically explosive game.
In his first 110 playoff games, he scored more than 20 points on 87 occasions. This year, in 15 playoff games, he’s topped 20 only twice — getting exactly 21 points both times, the second coming in Monday’s win over Indiana in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
“He just found a way to dig deep,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We all know what he’s dealing with right now. He knew this was a moment that we had to have, and somehow he was able just to will that game, despite what he’s going through.”
The Heat desperately needs the Wade who showed up for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals to be on the court for the majority of the NBA Finals. If Wade can play at that level throughout the Finals, Miami has a great shot of knocking off the Spurs. But if Wade’s game regresses back to the way it was in Games 5 & 6 of the conference finals, San Antonio may run away with the championship.
“I’m going to play through pain because this is my job,” Wade said. “My team depends on me. Like I said a couple of series ago, I would love to be one of the players who never has to deal with these conversations, never have to deal with these injuries. But that’s not my path. I’ve been through so much away from the game and in the game that I’ll find a way. I’ll figure it out. Some way, somehow, you give me enough time, I’ll figure it out.”
If Wade does figure it out, he will not only win his second championship in a row, but it will be his third championship in his 10 year career. It will also likely punch Wade’s ticket as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
“There will be some moments next series where I won’t be looking so great,” Wade said. “I’m sure there will be some great headlines out there about myself. I’ll continue pushing. I’ll continue to try to do what I can to help the Miami Heat win another championship.”
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