MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Heat held their final practice at the American Airlines Arena on Tuesday afternoon before flying out to San Antonio for Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The Heat hasn’t played in a game since eliminating the Indiana Pacers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals last Friday and the team is anxious to get back to business and continue its quest for the elusive 3-peat.
“I’ve been ready, I wish it was today,” said Heat forward Chris Bosh following Tuesday’s practice. “The most difficult part about this situation is waiting. Out of everything I don’t like waiting, that’s the worst part.”
With so much intrigue leading up to the Finals, it’s no surprise that both teams can’t wait to get out there and decide for themselves who will be crowned this year’s champion.
One thing that the Heat is not doing is bad-mouthing the Spurs. Miami has nothing but respect for its opponent and has known for a while that San Antonio would likely be there waiting for the Heat when the Finals began.
“This is one of the smartest teams that we have in our league,” said LeBron James. “Obviously it starts with [Spurs coach Greg Popovich] but it goes down to the players as well. They’ve got great basketball IQ guys that know how to play the game.”
The Spurs certainly used that IQ to devise a plan on how to handle James during last season’s NBA Finals and through the first three games their strategy paid off quite nicely. James averaged just 16.7 points on 38.9 percent shooting in Games 1 through 3, hitting a meager 23.1 percent from three-point range. The Heat won just one of those first three games.
James seemed to figure things out following Game 3 though, greatly improving both his numbers and his team’s chances of winning. LeBron increased his field goal percentage to 47.9 percent and 42.9 percent from three-point range in Games 4 through 7, averaging 31.8 points per game. Miami would win three of the final four games en route to their second consecutive NBA title.
James’ explanation for the drastic difference between the first three games and the last four was fairly simple.
“On every pick and roll I had, they dared me too shoot and I didn’t make shots the first couple of games and I just tried to stay with it, watch film and figure out ways to help our team,” explained James. “I started to make shots and that opened the floor for all of us.”
It will be very interesting to see if San Antonio adopts the same defensive mentality during this year’s Finals installment. Whatever the Spurs decide to do against Miami, the Heat know that without having homecourt advantage there is little time to feel things out and adjust on the fly.
Throughout the course of the ‘Big Three’ era, Miami has gone to the NBA Finals all four years that James, Bosh and Dwyane Wade have been playing together. During the first three Finals series that they have played, the Heat has won Game 1 just one time, and that was in 2011 when they lost to the Dallas Mavericks.
Every time that the Miami Heat franchise has won an NBA championship, they lost Game 1 of the Finals. That is a problem the team is hoping to solve when they face the Spurs on Thursday night in San Antonio.
“Over the course of our time being together, we’ve always kinda waited, especially on the road, waited that first game to kinda feel our game,” Wade said following practice on Tuesday. “I don’t think we can try to come in and feel it out. I think we have to get right at it.”
“Offensively we get better as the series goes on but defensively I think early on we’ve gotta try to, as much as possible, impose our will in the first game and not wait to the second one to make the adjustments.”
Game 1 of the NBA Finals is slated for Thursday night from the AT&T Center in San Antonio. Tipoff is set for 9pm.