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NBA Finals Game 5 Preview: A two-way must-win

By Royce Young | NBA writer

Dwyane Wade has struggled in the second half of games in the Finals.   (USATSI)
Game 5 is going to be a fight. (USATSI)

A preview of Sunday night's Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and theSan Antonio Spurs.

1. Where We Are: It's a best-of-three now. Tied 2-2, the winner of Game 5 puts the other team up against elimination. Looking at it from the Spurs' perspective, they have to feel the pressure to win because a loss means needing to win two consecutive games in Miami. Looking at it from the Heat's perspective, they have to feel pressure to win because a loss means they continue their pattern of failing to win consecutive games -- and therefore means they'd have to win two straight to win an NBA title.

The Spurs had a real opportunity to grab the series around the throat and potentially crush the Heat's hopes in Game 4, but Miami played desperate. The game was close early in the fourth, but Dwyane Wade sprung to life and sparked an impressive fourth quarter by the Heat that the Spurs couldn't keep pace with.

It was an impressive response to Game 3, when the Heat got completely pummeled by San Antonio's marksmen, as Danny Green and Gary Neal combined to hit 13 3s. The Heat adjusted, going small with their starting five, and it paid off.

The Heat now have the momentum. But Chris Bosh said it best at Saturday's practice: Momentum is only as good as your last game. You can't rely on simply having some mojo. You've got to create it again.

2. The Big Number: 16. That's the number of 3s the Spurs made in Game 3. But that's also the number of 3s they attempted in Game 4. It was obvious the priority the Heat put on the 3-point line in Game 4, making note not just to close out, but to never fall off or asleep on shooters. The Spurs still hit eight of their 16 attempts -- a very good number -- but it's a far cry from the lightshow San Antonio produced the previous game.

Danny Green is just four 3s away from breaking the all-time NBA Finals for most makes in the series. I have a sneaking suspicion if he gets that Sunday night, the Spurs will win the game.

3. Key Adjustment: The Heat went small with Mike Miller replacing Udonis Haslem in the starting five, and while statistically speaking, Miller didn't have much impact (0-1, zero points), the spacing and problems his presence created was enough. Having Miller on the floor early created a lot more channels for LeBron James to operate in and didn't allow San Antonio to pack the paint as freely.

Gregg Popovich adjusted quickly in Game 4, subbing Tiago Splitter out after 45 seconds. He also dusted off Boris Diaw for some extended minutes. Popovich said at Sunday's shootaround he didn't have any lineup changes, so that means he apparently has a new plan with his starting group. The adjustment has to be how to flip Miami's small ball back at them and regain control of the matchups. That's what the Pacers did so well against the Heat. They never were pushed into anything matchup-wise by the Heat. Right now, Miami seemed to have taken the upper hand.

4. The Big Story: Someone takes the closest step yet to an NBA title Sunday night. A 2-2 series is a beautiful thing, but in the NBA Finals, there is certainly a lot more pressure on the Spurs. With the 2-3-2 format, it means San Antonio is in a world of hurt if it doesn't win tonight.

Whoever wins Game 5 has two cracks to win a title, though. In a playoff series, each successive game is more important than the next, but Game 5 Sunday night is by far the biggest of the series, at least from the perspective of both teams. LeBron said "enough is enough" about not being able to string together wins. Wade said he anticipated this being the best game of the series. Tim Duncan stressed the importance by repeating it's a must-win multiple times.

Game 5 isn't for all the marbles, but it is for half of them.

5. The Facts: Tip at 8 p.m. ET. Tony Parker is probable with a strained hamstring.

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