1. The Facts: Sunday, 8 p.m. ET (ABC). Follow the action here. Everyone is healthy.
2. Where We Are: We're at the end of the season; at least that's how it feels. After 8.5 months of preseason, regular season, and postseason basketball, the Spurs need to win one out of the next three games to secure their fifth franchise championship. The Heat only prevent it by handing San Antonio its second three-game losing streak this season, which hasn't happened since late January. The Spurs are back at home for Game 5, where they look like a historical lock to wrap this up.
Game 1 was marred by LeBron James' cramps, as the Heat wilted in a hot arena (don't forget the A/C malfunction) while the Spurs cranked up their offense to close out the game. Game 2 was the answer by LeBron, reminding everybody how he and the Heat have bounced back from criticism. But Miami got its teeth kicked during Games 3 and 4. No matter the Heat counter moves, the Spurs shot out the lights, put up big offensive numbers and stopped everybody not named LeBron James.
No team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Finals (0-31). We rarely see a Game 6 and only twice have we seen a Game 7. The Heat have to solve issues incurred in consectuive blowout losses, and probably need some help from the Spurs to keep this season alive a game or two more.
3. The Big Number: 54.2. The Spurs' shooting percentage is unreal. And they are shooting 46.7 percent from 3-point range, something accomplished only twice in NBA Finals history (the 2001-02 Lakers made 47.5 percent beyond the arc, and 2000-01 Lakers shot 48 percent from 3). However, the 2002 Lakers took only 61 attempts from downtown in their four games and the 2001 Lakers took 73 attempts in their five Finals games. Through four games, the Spurs have taken 92 3-point shots.
But that 54.2 percent overall percentage is the highest by a team in the past 30 years of the NBA Finals. The 1991 Bulls made 52.7 percent of their shots in their five-game series win over the Lakers and the 1989 Pistons did the same in their four-game sweep of the Lakers. However, the 54.2 percent accuracy by the Spurs is unreal, especially with how often they shoot 3-pointers.
4. Key Adjustment: What can the Heat do? Honestly, that's a question I have. I tried tackling the subject Friday, and the best I could come up with was defensive energy and focus. It's something we've seen from the Heat at a few points in the Finals, and it's certainly something that saved them in the Finals last year. But the way the Spurs have executed has far outweighed the Heat's ability to remain focused on defense. The adjustment the Heat can make is bring it for 48 minutes, try to play a perfect game. And even then, do you feel great about their chances of disrupting the Spurs after what we saw in Miami?
Create havoc on defense and hope for the best. Hope is never really an adjustment though.
5. The Big Story: What will be more important for the NBA: the Spurs' clinching a fifth NBA championship the Gregg Popovich-Tim Duncan era the Heat's experiment going 2-2 in the Finals? From a beauty-of-the-game perspective, the Spurs' accomplishment seems to be more important. Critics often refer to them as boring, but they're only "boring" because they lack drama and headlines. Their play is artistic and something every club should try to emulate. However, the Heat and their potential fallout, while not as severe as the fallout would have been last year, will change the landscape of the NBA.
Does LeBron want to bring in another friend if they lose? Will Dwyane Wade be able to take an even more reduced role and would he really opt out of $41 million over the next two years? Can you get all three guys to take a pay cut in order to bring in another star? Would that be good or bad for the league? Would this lead to big changes in the CBA? Could it even push LeBron in another direction? What if nobody opts out?
If the Heat's fails to rally, it will have long-term implications. The Spurs' success will have historical implications but won't affect what lies ahead, because of what they've done. It's a funny juxtaposition.