No team in NBA history has ever overcome a 3-1 deficit to come back and win the NBA Finals. The Miami Heat are coming off arguably their two worst playoff performances in the James/Wade/Bosh era back-to-back but with a win in San Antonio on Sunday night, will have a legitimate chance at forcing a Game 7 and ultimately winning their third straight title.
It doesn’t take a basketball expert to realize where the Heat have struggled in this series because quite frankly, they haven’t done much right at all. LeBron James is the best player on the planet but has more turnovers than assists. Dwyane Wade had the most efficient season of his career this year but appears to be running on fumes. Chris Bosh gets lost in the shuffle and seemingly disappears for long stretches of time in the offense. Despite these issues, the Heat would be able to handle almost every team in the NBA but not the Spurs – not the way the 2013 Finals ended.
All things considered, the season is not over and while nobody else believes that they can win three straight vs. the Spurs, the Heat surely do. This will be only the second time in the Big Three era that Miami has faced an elimination game on the road – the other was Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals vs. the Boston Celtics. LeBron James single-handedly took over that game, accounting for 45 points (on 19-26 shooting), 15 rebounds, 5 assists, and completely shutting down Paul Pierce (9 points on 4-18 shooting) in what was unquestionable one of the greatest performances in NBA history.
For the Miami Heat to steal Game 5 in San Antonio they might need James come up with another historic performance. Since the team cannot bank on such a possibility, they need to make some changes to their game plan and strategy in general. Below are three adjustments that I anticipate the Heat making to improve their chances:
1. Start Udonis Haslem - It may seem fairly drastic to start a player in Game 5 of the NBA Finals when he has been on the court a combined 13 minutes through the first four games of the series, but I strongly believe this is a change that must be made. It has been painfully clear that the Heat are lacking on the court leadership, effort, and overall intangibles that every championship team in any sport requires.
They have had no answer for the Spurs’ Boris Diaw, who has abused the much smaller Dwyane Wade in the post. Haslem has the ability to shut down Diaw in the post and in essence, free up Wade to defend the guards more and improve the three-point defense. Haslem, the co-captain of the Heat, has been a member of the organization since 2003 and is known to many as “Mr. 305.” Inserting Haslem into the starting lineup gives the Heat much more heart and passion on the floor which is exactly what they need right now.
2. Limit (or bench) Mario Chalmers - Without question, Mario Chalmers has been the worst player on either roster during the 2014 NBA Finals. The self-proclaimed top 10-point guard has a total of 14 points, 14 assists, and 10 turnovers through the first four games of the series. Things haven’t gone much better for Chalmers on the defensive end, where Tony Parker has torched him time after time.
Those who watch the Heat regularly know that Chalmers is known for his inconsistent play but rarely does it carry over into multiple games like this. Considering the stage (NBA Finals), the Heat can no longer afford to run out a man who has absolutely no confidence right now and isn’t helping in any aspect of the game. Giving Norris Cole more minutes, playing without a traditional point guard for longer stretches, or playing Toney Douglas are all better options at this point as the Heat enter a must win Game 5.
3. Give Shane Battier More Minutes - Shane Battier has insisted for months now that this will be his final season in the NBA. For one reason or another, Erik Spoelstra has kept Battier hidden on the bench for most of the NBA Finals (only 23 minutes through the first four games). The coach has openly commented on the issue, suggesting that it is a matter of matchup and not health, as many assumed.
Rashard Lewis has done a solid job of contributing on the offensive end by spreading the floor and hitting threes but has been terrible defensively. James Jones, another guy who does basically the same things on the court, has been brought off the bench before Battier as well. Battier is the perfect fit for this series vs. the Spurs because he can spread the floor (like Lewis and Jones) but is also an above average defensive player (unlike Lewis and Jones). The Heat have shown no answer for San Antonio defensively but more minutes for Shane Battier can help change that trend.