Emotions of fans back in South Florida were going to swing wildly with this result, either way: It would be all is well, or all is hell.
No team trailing 3-1 has ever won three in a row and the NBA championship. Not once.
That was the mountain Miami avoided Thursday night, and it did so by continuing its phenomenal streak of not losing two games in a row.
The Heat’s last consecutive losses might be faintly recalled by elders among us or seen in yellowed news clippings. It seems that long ago, anyway. It was Jan. 8-10, more than six months ago, when Miami last lost two in a row.
The last two series of this postseason Miami is now 6-0 following a loss, winning by an average of 17 points. (Miami also has been 0-5 after wins, losing by an average of 13 – a trend the Heat will try to end in Game 5 here on Sunday).
Spoelstra said San Antonio had “more effort, more focus, all the little things,” in its Game 3 rout. Miami had them all Thursday night.
“We have to find a way to match their energy,” Wade had said before the game. “We got to play the game a lot better. Play with a sense of urgency for 48 minutes.”
It was the aggressive game Spoelstra imagined for James when he’d said beforehand he wanted LeBron having “a big fingerprint on virtually every single possession.”
James did, but so did Wade.
“We’re trying to redeem ourselves,” as Bosh put it.
He meant his team. He might as well have meant the Big 3.
Miami made a starting-lineup change, using the three-point specialist Miller instead of the bigger, defense-oriented Haslem.
You make that change in the midst of a Finals and lose, it feels like panic.
You do it and win, it gets to feel like coaching genius.
Sacrificing a bit of defense for an extra shooter opened the floor as they’d hoped, helping to free up LeBron and Wade for more breakaways and drives into the paint.
LeBron in the first three Finals games averaged 16.7 points on 38.9 percent shooting, a shocking decline from his regular-season numbers of 26.8 points and 56.5 percent shooting.
Wade and Bosh also had been well below their season averages.
Thursday night it was back to full strength for the Big 3. It was back to normal. And it was just in time.