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NBA Finals: Spurs' Game 5 win puts Heat at historical disadvantage

By Zach Harper | NBA writer

James and Wade find themselves in historical peril right now. (USATSI)
James and Wade find themselves in historical peril right now. (USATSI)

With the San Antonio Spurs winning Game 5 and needing just one more victory to capture 2013 NBA championship, the Miami Heat are officially in trouble. Tied 2-2 in the series, the Heat had a great chance to take control of the Finals by beating the Spurs in San Antonio and putting all the pressure on Gregg Popovich and his crew. Now Miami's quest to repeat as NBA champion has to tangle with NBA history.

The Finals have been a 2-2 split 27 previous times in NBA history. Of those 27 times, the team that won Game 5 went on to win the Larry O'Brien trophy 20 times. That leaves LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat with a 25.9 percent chance of winning the next two games to repeat. Here are those 20 winners:

2011Dallas MavericksMiami Heat6 games
2006Miami HeatDallas Mavericks6 games
2005San Antonio SpursDetroit Pistons7 games
2003San Antonio SpursNew Jersey Nets6 games
1997Chicago BullsUtah Jazz6 games
1992Chicago BullsPortland Trail Blazers6 games
1985Los Angeles LakersBoston Celtics6 games
1984Boston CelticsLos Angeles Lakers7 games
1981Boston CelticsHouston Rockets6 games
1980Los Angeles LakersPhiladelphia 76ers6 games
1977Portland Trail BlazersPhiladelphia 76ers6 games
1976Boston CelticsPhoenix Suns6 games
1974Boston CelticsMilwaukee Bucks7 games
1970New York KnicksLos Angeles Lakers7 games
1968Boston CelticsLos Angeles Lakers6 games
1960Boston CelticsSt. Louis Hawks7 games
1958St. Louis HawksBoston Celtics6 games
1957Boston CelticsSt. Louis Hawks7 games
1954Minneapolis LakersSyracuse Nationals7 games
1952Minneapolis LakersNew York Knicks7 games

The winners of those 20 series finished it off in six games 12 times, meaning the Spurs have history on their side in terms of closing it out in Game 6 on Tuesday. And while history says the Heat are unlikely to win this series, the teams that have forced a Game 7 do end up having a pretty decent chance of pulling off the upset.

Teams that force a Game 7 after dropping Game 5 when there was a 2-2 split are 7-8 at winning the NBA Finals. Forcing a Game 7, both logically and historically, gives that team basically a flip of the coin to win the NBA title. Here are the seven teams that have pulled it off:

2010Los Angeles LakersBoston Celtics
1994Houston RocketsNew York Knicks
1988Los Angeles LakersDetroit Pistons
1978Washington BulletsSeattle SuperSonics
1969Boston CelticsLos Angeles Lakers
1962Boston CelticsLos Angeles Lakers
1955Syracuse NationalsFort Wayne Pistons

Since the NBA Finals moved to the 2-3-2 format in 1985, there have been 10 series that have been tied 2-2. The team that wins Game 5 has won seven of those series. The Lakers in 2010 were the last team to come back and win the Finals after dropping Game 5 to go down 3-2.

On Tuesday night, the Heat will try to keep their championship aspirations and their season alive in the hopes of getting a chance to become the fourth team since the implimentation of the 2-3-2 format to pull off the upset.

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