SAN ANTONIO – It was the compelling story of the NBA regular season, the Miami Heat making their run at the league-record mark of 33 consecutive victories.
They fell six games short.
These days, the Heat are looking for another streak. The most modest of all possible winning streaks, actually. And if they fall short again, their time as NBA champions is a few days away from coming to an end.
Miami has alternated wins and losses in each of its last 11 games, and if that trend continues, the Heat won’t beat the San Antonio Spurs in these NBA Finals. Somewhere along the way, the Heat will have to win two in a row to keep their crown, and get a crack at pulling off that common-yet-crucial feat tonight when the Spurs host Game 5 of a title series that’s knotted at two games apiece.
“If we don’t do two, we won’t win a championship,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said Saturday. “We have to find a way to put a string together. And hopefully our mentality and our play in Game 4 can take over to the next game or into the game after that. I think this team, we’ve always responded to a challenge, and right now this is our challenge.”
A couple months ago, the mere notion of the Heat having trouble stringing even two straight wins together would have seemed ludicrous. They won 27 straight games during the regular season. They won 12 straight in April. They had a pair of stand-alone six-game winning streaks in November and December, and a five-game run earlier in these playoffs.
But the Pacers took them to the limit in the East finals, and the Spurs struck first by taking Game 1 of the championship series. The last time Miami won consecutive games in the same playoff series was a month ago, the final two games of the second-round matchup against Chicago.
LeBron James thinks Miami is poised for the breakthrough.
“I think it’s time,” said James, the Heat star and four-time MVP. “I think we’re well overdue when it’s time for us to win consecutive games. Enough is enough for our team. I’m not saying it’s going to result in us having a win, but we need to play with the same sense of urgency as if we were down 2-1 or whatever the case may be tomorrow night. And we can’t wait around.”