For the past three seasons, the ball has seemed to consistently bounce the Miami Heat’s way. Tonight, in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, things finally crumbled and the San Antonio Spurs picked up the pieces—and the 107-86 win—before heading home with a 3-1 lead in the Best of 7 series.
Coming into the contest, the Heat was admittedly in a win-or-be-warned situation. The team was aware that no team had ever come back from a 3-1 Finals deficit. They knew that Game 5 was to be played back in San Antonio. And they felt like the lackluster effort at home in Game 3 needed to be amended immediately.
“Yes, it’s a must-win,” Chris Bosh said earlier in the day. “We can not go to San Antonio down 3-1. That is out of the question.”
Now, after losing in lopsided fashion to the visiting Spurs, there’s a possibility that the Heat might concede the Finals in San Antonio on Sunday.
More than that, there’s a possibility that the Big Three of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, all of whom can become free agents this summer, might have played their last game together in Miami as members of the Heat.
If Game 4 was their last run together in home white-and-red uniforms, it’s not exactly one that the All-Stars will want to remember. Bosh started off fast, scoring six points in the first seven minutes, but ended up fading like taillights in the distance as the game progressed. Wade, who shot 3-13 and finished with 10 points, appeared out of rhythm, slow and possibly even injured. And James, despite briefly having to go back to the locker room to address a stomach issue, had 28 points on 10-17 shooting but couldn’t carry his team to a win.
“I mean, they smashed us,” James said after the game.
Maybe the 21-point victory shouldn’t have come as a surprise. This past Tuesday, in Game 3, the Spurs won by 19, 111-92. The Spurs shot 59 percent in that tilt, but Coach Popovich still thought their play left a lot of room for improvement.
“What we spent all of our time on [since Game 3] was the defense,” Popovich said prior to Game 4, “because I thought we did a pretty mediocre job.”
They stepped it up accordingly tonight. In the decisive W, San Antonio not only shot the ball well (57 percent) but they moved together on defense like synchronized swimmers. The Heat hit only 45 percent of their shots on the game, a number that dropped to 41 percent if you exclude James. Some of those misses were unforced, but plenty happened with the Spurs swarming all over the shooter.
Kawhi Leonard led the charge, with 20 points, 14 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks. Boris Diaw (8 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists), Tim Duncan (10 points, 11 rebounds) and Tony Parker (19 points) joined Leonard as fulcrums of the two-way demolition.
James Jones chipped in 11 points for the Heat, and Ray Allen added 8 more.
The last time the Heat lost two games in a row in the Playoffs was against the Boston Celtics in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals. In that series, the Heat won the first two game and then lost three straight. Ultimately, though, they bounced back and won the final two games to advance. But the Spurs, however old they are on black and white, are not the aging Celtics of 24 months ago.
“They’re a good team,” said Bosh.
Just how good the Spurs are, and just how desperate the Heat is, remains to be seen this coming Sunday in San Antonio.