All of that should make a series-tying Miami win Thursday almost foregone.
So why do hearts pound and stomachs churn among fans back home? Why are the palms clammy? Why are Miami fans praying Spurs star Tony Parker (hamstring) can’t play in Game 4? (Since when did the Heat need to catch a break?)
It is because we have not seen this before in the three seasons of Pat Riley’s Grand Experiment.
We have not before seen LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh — all of them, all at once — so below their averages offensively. It is San Antonio’s paint-denying gang defense on James. It is Wade’s right knee. It is Bosh’s right ankle. It is plain bad shooting by all of them. It is degrees of all of this, and it invites the composite picture of Superman in the glow of Kryponite, power drained, a hero turned mortal.
Miami’s stars outscored so far in this Finals by somebody named Danny Green? Is that possible? Is that even legal?
Spoelstra preached again Wednesday that the culprit isn’t all offense. That Miami must work harder and defend better and turn the energy up. All true. We have all seen the defensive urgency that swings games, and it was missing Tuesday.
For this team, though, ever since the summer of 2010, when hasn’t it all started with the Big 3?
If Wade and Bosh, or even one of them, was consistently scoring more, pressure on LeBron wouldn’t be as intense. But reality is self-evident. Each of the Big 3 has come up small offensively. The very phrase itself is threatened with forced early retirement.
Leading the charge
“Obviously it starts with us,” said Wade, who gets it. “We’ve got to do a better job of, quote unquote, being the Big 3. If all of us don’t lead the charge, we won’t be NBA champions. Our teammates are counting on us, and we have to step up.”
Everything is so different with this team.
Spurs veteran star Tim Duncan admitted Wednesday he could not stand it if San Antonio bore the same national media spotlight as the Heat, with every loss magnified, dissected and seeming to have dire consequences.
In this series alone we already have heard speculation after the Game 1 loss about Bosh being traded this offseason. Before Game 2 an ESPN.com piece tried to make a case for benching Wade. After Tuesday’s loss came a premature rehash of whether Miami failing to win it all again might see LeBron leaving after next season.
No wonder being a Heat fan right now must feel like jumping off a bridge tethered only to a bungee cord. You are terrified and exhilarated all at once and all you can hope is that the elastic holds and you spring back up again to feel that rush and joy.
All of the chaotic noise and free-fall terror goes away (for now, at least) if the Heat wins Game 4. If the Big 3 are the Big 3 again. If LeBron is Superman once more.
If not? Well, maybe the bungee cord breaks.