There’s at least one person who hasn’t jumped off the Miami Heat bandwagon yet: LeBron James.
While you’ll have to pardon his mixed metaphors, the Heat’s most important player spoke at length after practice yesterday about his team’s chances of winning the NBA Finals despite trailing 3-1 in the series. As has been noted numerous times, no team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit to win an NBA championship, but that has not prevented James from believing.
“Why not us? History is broken all the time,” he said, “And obviously we know we’re against the greatest of odds. No team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals, but there was a point where no team came back from a 2-0. There was a point where no team came back from a 3-0. There was a point where no team came back from a 3-1 or 3-0 deficit in the ALCS, and then the Red Sox did it against the Yankees.”
Believing and actually doing, however, are two entirely separate matters. Whether the Heat will be able to mount an historic comeback really depends on everybody except James; during the Finals, LeBron is averaging 27.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game on 60 percent shooting (including 61.1 percent from three point range). Can we reasonably expect him to do more than that?
The Heat’s fate likely rests in the hands of their other two stars, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Both have under-performed during this series, and will need to dramatically improve in a hurry if the Heat want to extend their season beyond tonight’s Game 5.
Wade has struggled to remain productive as the Finals have worn on, looking flat out exhausted at times in Games 3 and 4. He struggled especially in Thursday night’s loss, going 3-for-13 from the field, managing just 10 points and appearing disinterested on the defensive end. Compared with his numbers from earlier in the playoffs, his per game averages are down across the board.
Speaking of seeing per game numbers bottoming out, Bosh has pulled a total disappearing act over the last two games. After scoring 18 points in Games 1 and 2 and shooting 59 percent from the field, in Games 3 and 4 Bosh scored nine and 12 points, respectively, taking just 15 shots total and grabbing 3.5 rebounds per game. Obviously, that is not the kind of output conducive to winning when it is coming from one of the team’s best players.
Credit undoubtedly needs to go to San Antonio, given the way they have totally outworked Miami on both ends of the floor through four games. If Miami wants to survive and get home for Game 6, they’ll need their other two All-Stars to “live in the moment” as LeBron said and play the way they have all season long.
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