Miami Heat needs its day off in wake of Game 5 loss
The Miami Heat players were given a day off, which was a good thing for them.
Their workdays haven’t been going so well.
After smacking into their first two-game losing streak since March, Heat players landed back in Miami on Friday with a 3-2 deficit in the best-of-seven NBA Finals.
One of their stars is limping (Dwyane Wade, bruised hip) and the other keeps facing questions of shrinking in the fourth quarter and struggling under the pressure of the Finals (LeBron James, bruised ego).
The Heat’s season began with a decision last July and could end with a dud if the Dallas Mavericks won one of two scheduled games in Miami, starting with Sunday.
How bad are things? Uh, very.
James was outscored in the first quarter of Game 5 by Brian Cardinal and, less forgivingly, outscored by Jason Terry the last two fourth quarters by an incredible 16-2 margin.
Lakers fans remember Terry as the guy who hit nine of 10 three-point attempts in the Mavericks’ 36-point series-ending victory last month. James remembers him as the guy who keeps blistering him on offense.
James’ scoring and shooting in the Finals have taken well-publicized dips of almost 10 points a game and 6% from the regular season, but he had played decent defense … until now.
“I’m not going to always stop him or hold him under his average,” James said after Terry squirted around him for another eight points in the fourth quarter. “He gets enough looks, he gets enough cracks at it, he’s going to make a few.”
Indeed, the two-time most valuable player is yielding to the one-time sixth man of the year.
If Wade were at full strength, James’ foibles might not matter, but Miami can only hope he’ll be close to 100% for Game 6.
Wade was in and out of Game 5 after colliding with Cardinal on a drive, but the Miami star pledged to play Sunday. His coach was more conservative in gauging Wade’s effectiveness, though a full three days between games would undoubtedly help Wade’s hip.
“We’ll have to see how it responds,” Erik Spoelstra said. “When he’s able to sweat and keep it warm, he was fine. Fortunately, we have an extra day. We’ll see if that’s enough.”
No players or coaches from either team met with the media Friday, a designated travel day. It’s just as well for the beleaguered James, who can use some quiet time after being publicly skewered.
It would be fascinating to read the mind of Mark Cuban, and that’s all that can be done since the Mavericks’ owner went on a self-imposed media exile a month ago by shutting down his pregame chats with reporters.
It would also be intriguing to know what veterans Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd think about standing on the welcome mat of their first championship conquest.
“When you come into this league, you feel that you can always win a championship,” Kidd said shortly after Game 5. “You just don’t understand when you’re young the competition and the level that you have to play. And then there’s the business side of basketball, where you can be traded or you lose a teammate or something.”
To paraphrase the 38-year-old, who came somewhat close to a title only in 2002, when Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant stapled his New Jersey Nets to the wall: It ain’t easy.
Nowitzki was much closer than Kidd. The Mavericks were up two games and 13 points in Game 3 of the 2006 Finals before Miami came roaring back to win four games in a row.
“We have to go down there and basically approach Sunday’s game as Game 7,” Nowitzki said. “You don’t want to give this great team any hope or anything.”