Spurs in must-win territory against Heat
Spurs teammates Tony Parker (left), Gary Neal (second left), Tim Duncan, and Danny Green (right) sit during a timeout against the Heat in Game 4 of the NBA Finals at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, June 13, 2013. (MIKE STONE/Reuters)
Ahead of the biggest game yet this NBA season, the face of the Heat, LeBron James and the face of the Spurs, Tim Duncan, were adamant that the stakes don’t get any higher.
“It is a must-win. We don’t want to go back there down a game with two games remaining at their house,” Duncan said of the prospect of having to sweep the final two contests in Florida.
“It is a must-win situation,” he repeated.
Duncan has never lost in the Finals and his franchise has never trailed a Finals series.
A loss Sunday, and both of those amazing facts likely get altered.
“Obviously, we lose this game, we’re not giving up or anything, but we want to go back up with a chance to finish there. Huge pressure if we have to go back there and try to win two,” Duncan said.
Statistically, taking Game 5 has been massive.
Of the 27 Finals tied 2-2, the winner of the next game has taken the series 20 times.
But James has other stats on his mind.
Miami, a team that won 27 straight games at one point and finished the regular season on an eight-game run before sweeping Milwaukee in the first round, has not won consecutive outings in a month.
Since then it’s been: W-L-W-L-W-L-W-L-W-L-W.
“I think it’s time. Enough is enough for our team,” James said matter-of-factly.
“I think we’re well overdue when it’s time for us to win consecutive games ... I’m not saying it’s going to result in us having a win, but we need to play with the same sense of urgency as if we were down 2-1 or whatever the case may be and we can’t wait around.”
Chris Bosh agreed, saying both teams have lost following wins due to either a lack of execution or a lack of energy.
“We have a chance tomorrow to kind of erase that stuff and overcome that situation,” Bosh said.
“Yes, we can draw from (the positives of Thursday’s win) but I’d rather look at the mistakes, get mad at that and just treat the last game like we lost it because we have to do something different right now.”
San Antonio also has to do something different after getting steamrolled by James, Bosh and a rejuvenated Dwyane Wade.
The Spurs know that to avoid a massive hole, the keys will be taking better care of the ball and finding a way to stop at least one member of the Big Three.
“They played great. So what that does is it doesn’t allow you to make mistakes. So you have to be close to perfect to beat them, and we were pretty far from that,” Manu Ginobili said.
“So, if they’re having an okay game, we can make a few mistakes here and there and we can mask it. But when they’re playing like that, we just can’t make mistakes.”
Avoiding mistakes seems to be a theme for the Spurs.
When asked what goes wrong when the Spurs drop games, head coach Gregg Popovich said the answer was obvious.
“Oftentimes or most of the time, the great majority of the time it’s about turnovers. It’s about not taking care of the basketball. Because it’s not just you gave them another possession. But people forget you lost your possession. You might have scored,” Popovich said.
“But you didn’t score and the other team oftentimes especially the better the team you play, like Miami, you turn it over and they’re going to score. It’s always a swing of four points, at least. And that’s what really takes its toll,” he continued.
“That’s why we were so happy after Game 1 when we just had four turnovers. Since then we’ve been plagued. Largely due to their outstanding defence.”
Duncan said the Spurs need to mix up the offence more, show different looks to prevent Miami from getting into a defensive comfort zone.
With Tony Parker claiming to feel better than he did on Thursday, that will be easier to accomplish.
If it doesn’t, the Heat likely will head home, a win away from a repeat.
SMALL BALL STUMPED SPURS
Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard admitted Saturday that Miami’s switch to a small lineup shocked the team in Game 4.
Mike Miller was inserted in place of Udonis Haslem, shifting Chris Bosh to the middle and LeBron James to power forward.
“We didn’t know what the lineup was coming out, (there were) surprises,” Leonard said Saturday.
“We’ll be prepared for it in Game 5.”
The presence of James, who teammate Shane Battier said was versatile like the queen piece on a chess board, allows Miami to go with a variety of different looks.
James spearheads the NBA’s most aggressive defence and Leonard admitted the style is forcing San Antonio into miscues.
“They are causing us to turn over the ball, they’re getting in passing lanes, making difficult passes for us, but it’s on us too, we’ve got to deliver passes and be strong with the ball,” he said.
Leonard wouldn’t compare Miami to any other team he has faced.
“Miami Heat is a different team, that’s why they’re in the Finals. Great defensive team, their rotations and how they play, they’re doing a good job.
“We just have to take care of the ball, make sure we see a good pass and make them.”