Reporting Tim Kephart
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SAN ANTONIO (CBSMiami) – Which Miami Heat team will show up in Texas for Game 4 of the 2013 NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs? That’s the biggest mystery surrounding the game, scheduled to tip-off at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.
The Heat looked like the dominant team that won 27 games in a row during the regular season in Game 2’s blowout of the Spurs at the AmericanAirlines Arena. Then in Game 3, the Heat looked like a junior varsity team playing in the NBA Finals and the Spurs blew Miami off the court.
Now, the Heat’s proverbial backs are against the wall because if the Spurs win Thursday and take a 3-1 lead over Miami, the Larry O’Brien trophy is likely headed to Texas and the Heat’s Big Three era may be over before it really gets going.
“We’ve been at our best when I guess our backs are against the wall, and we’re at it again,” Heat star LeBron James said. “We’ll see how we respond tomorrow.”
Perhaps no player in the Finals is facing more pressure in Game 4 than James.
The Spurs have almost completely shut James down in a manner that hasn’t been seen in the NBA since the 2011 NBA Finals when the Dallas Mavericks pulled off a similar feat and went on to win the NBA championship against Miami in the first Finals for the Big Three.
When James and the rest of the Heat walked off the court after being dismantled by the Spurs in Game 3, the players looked lost and not sure if they could actually come back from such a beating. But James has promised that he will be back and ready to play Thursday night.
“Something has to give tomorrow night,” James said Wednesday. “They have a championship pedigree. They have four (titles). We have two. So something has to give. We’ll see what happens. We’ve been able to bounce back throughout adverse times throughout the season, throughout the years that we’ve been together, these three years. We’ll see.”
One thing the Heat will have to find quickly is how to play defense, especially superstar Dwyane Wade. The former Finals MVP was slow rotating and made countless mental mistakes in Game 3 that allowed Spurs players Danny Green and Gary Neal to abuse the Heat with outside shooting.
Wade has been battling what appears to be a more serious knee injury than either he or the team is letting on at this point. The Heat’s Big Three know that even with Wade less than 100 percent, the Heat will only go as far as they can take them.
“If us three don’t lead the charge, we’re not going to be NBA champions,” Wade said. “Our teammates count on us, so we have to step up.”
For the Heat, it needs another performance from LeBron James akin to his play in 2012’s Eastern Conference Finals Game 6 against the Boston Celtics. James came out in that game with the Heat facing elimination and took it over from the opening tip to carry Miami on his back, scoring 45 points over a tough Celtics defense.
The simplest truth is the Heat must play more like the team that put the Spurs away with a 33-5 run and less like the squad limping through Game 3.
“We just collectively played a very bad basketball game last night. And that was everybody, including the staff. It was hard to really judge anything and evaluate anything from that game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That’s why after the film session, all we’re focused on is how we prepare the next 24 hours to have our best game of the series tomorrow night.”
The Spurs and Heat will tip-off Thursday night in San Antonio at 9 p.m.
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