Two things about winning two straight championships and reaching four straight NBA Finals—one, you don’t get eliminated a lot and two, when facing elimination you have usually found a way to get through.
For the first time in the 2014 NBA Playoffs, the Miami Heat are facing elimination. They go into Game 5 in San Antonio in a daunting 3-1 hole to the Spurs in the NBA Finals, a deficit from which—as we’ve been told ad nauseum since about halftime of Game 4 on Thursday—no team has ever recovered.
So how has Miami’s infamous Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh done when facing elimination? Taking into consideration, again, the two titles and four straight Finals appearances, they have done remarkably well.
Miami has won five straight games when facing elimination, dating back to the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals.
The Boston Celtics had stunned the Heat in Miami in Game 5, 94-90, to head back to Boston with a 3-2 series lead.
That led to what is simply known as the “LeBron Game.” James played 45 minutes without coming out of the game, scoring 45 points on 19-of-26 shooting, grabbing 15 rebounds and dishing five assists. He didn’t come out until the outcome of the 98-79 drubbing of the Celtics had been decided.
That was followed by up James playing 47:32 in Game 7, scoring 31 points with 12 rebounds as the Heat advanced to their second straight NBA Finals with a 101-88 win.
The next time the Heat were in a win-or-go-home situation came a year later, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers.
Indiana had hammered the Heat 91-77 in Game 6 at Indianapolis to even the series at 3-3.
James and Wade made sure there would be a tomorrow.
James scored 32 points and Wade added 21 as the Heat blew out the Pacers 99-76.
But in the very next series, the Heat once again were staring down the barrel of elimination, this time after a 114-104 Game 5 loss to the Spurs in San Antonio that put Miami down 3-2, but heading home for Games 6 and 7.
Game 6, of course, became one of the classic comebacks/failures to finish in NBA Finals history. Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard each missed free throws in the final 28 seconds of regulation and Ray Allen knocked down the game-tying 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds to go after Bosh secured an offensive rebound of a James miss from 3-point range.
Miami went on to a 103-100 overtime victory to tie the series and won it in Game 7, 95-88, with James scoring 37 points to secure his second straight Finals MVP award, Wade adding 23 points and Shane Battier going 6-for-8 from 3-point range for 18 points.
The only time the Big Three has lost when facing elimination was the very first time they were in that situation, in Game 6 of the 2011 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.
After splitting the first four games, Dallas had beaten the Heat 112-103 in Dallas in Game 5 to send the series back to South Beach with a 3-2 lead.
James was good, not great, scoring 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting to go with six assists. Bosh was 7-for-9 and knocked down 19 points. Wade was 6-for-16 for 17 points, but Miami turned the ball over 16 times (11 between James and Wade) and the Heat had no answer for Jason Terry, who erupted for 27 points to lead the Mavericks to a 105-95 win.
So when James says, “Why not us?” it’s more than just bravado.
If nothing else during this run, the Miami Heat have proven that they are a hard team to finish off.