There has never been a team in NBA history to win the NBA Finals after being down 3-1. It’s not impossible – it’s simply improbable. For the Miami Heat to get back home for Game 6, they’ll need to know the difference between the two and play game five as if for now – improbability is good enough.
What’s usually a dismal situation is only another hurdle for the defending champions. Fact is — if there’s any team capable of making history, it’s the squad with the greatest player on the planet.
In Game 5 of the 1980 NBA Finals, Los Angeles Lakers center and league MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sustained an ankle injury that would keep him out of the game. Although at that time the Lakers were ahead in the series 3-2 and not facing defeat (like the Heat), their point guard and arguably the best player in the league at that time, Magic Johnson, vowed to do whatever it took to give the Lakers victory.
Six-foot-nine and full of heart, Magic suited up at center in place of an injured Kareem, and unnecessarily so. It was a decision the Lakers made to help their best player will their team to a win. Thirty-four years later Johnson’s 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists remains to be one of the greatest individual performances in NBA history. It also secured him the Finals MVP trophy.
It’s a history lesson for any team that needs an example of the type of will it takes to win an NBA championship. It’s also a good start for the Heat, who will attempt to get back into a series that can bring them their third straight.
Interior passing has killed Miami in the last two contests, due to the combination of Rashard Lewis and Chris Bosh defending the multi-skilled Boris Diaw and Tim Duncan, who combined for 11 assists in-Game 4. Starting LeBron James at center upgrades the defense down low and adds greater awareness to those interior touch passes San Antonio used to defeat Miami in two straight games.
Starting LeBron down low also solves a recurring problem for Miami in the fourth quarter. After three quarters of carrying a load heavy enough for a mental and physical hernia, LeBron has seemed too fatigued to leave his mark towards the end of the game. LeBron defending the post allows him to save his legs a bit more. Post players typically run much less in the half-court offense. James could save a ton of energy while keeping San Antonio off of the glass.
He’s very capable of playing down low, so why doesn’t Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra send him to the paint? Does anyone remember James’ huge block on Tiago Splitter in last year’s Finals? Miami has no shot of winning if their best player is too tired to compete late in the contest.
Next up is Dwyane Wade. Wade needs to be relocated to the second unit. His play has been increasingly slow and while he might not be effective as a starter, his natural talent can cause fits against the Spurs second unit (considering he matches up against Marco Belinelli and not Manu Ginobili). His slow starts have been a detriment to the Heat, who have been outscored in the first quarter by a combined 25 points over the last two contests. They’ve got to get off to a better start, to have a chance at winning a close game down the stretch.
Ray Allen needs to start in place of Wade. Allen is still capable of posting quick numbers, and has shown the ability to still get to the rim. One of Miami’s issues on offense is not capitalizing on drive and kick opportunities. Allen is still a knock down shooter, and while Wade hasn’t been a “flash” or even a flicker heading to the rim, perhaps Allen can beef up the Heat’s first quarter stats.
Most importantly, Allen is the Heat’s most conditioned player, and can play great defense on Danny Green who’s losing Wade on screens and off the ball perimeter play. Allen would be able to chase Green across the court, hopefully that decreases the amount of open looks he’s been getting.
Three quick fixes for a team that’s facing what most will consider an inevitable fate. It would be irresponsible to consider a brighter future, when the great LeBron James is still suiting up for the Heat. The question is whether or not we’ll see any radical changes necessary to catch the Spurs off guard. I wouldn’t plan on it.