It is in the Heat’s hands now. Everything is. The series. The championship. The three-peat. The history and legacy that is the engine for all of this.
All they have to do is own their home court.
If Miami does not lose in its bayside arena beginning with NBA Finals Game 3 on Tuesday night — if the Heat prevails in the one sanctuary where it has not been hated, doubted or mocked — there will be yet another parade just out front along Biscayne Boulevard.
But if that sounds too easy, it probably is. If you have paid attention to the first two games of a series now 1-1, you have seen two teams likely headed for the full seven games.
I almost felt bad for newbie NBA commissioner Adam Silver as he addressed a congested roomful of national media in San Antonio on Sunday night. He was there to preen. Instead he was being pelted.
Shots against the league bow came in the form of questions about the latest in the mess of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. When would the sale of the club and his ouster become official? He also was peppered by a salvo concerning the mysterious arena air-conditioning outage that so affected Game 1 of this Heat-Spurs championship series. Was it sabotage? When exactly did he learn of the snafu?
A racist owner and a Finals controversy wrapped in hints of skullduggery — these are not any commissioner’s idea of a comfort zone.
Poor Silver, he just wanted to do a little bragging.
“This Finals is everything basketball fans could have hoped for,” he said in his introductory, lavishing two class organizations of championship pedigree, and two teams stocked with future Hall of Famers chasing their own slice of history.
Silver failed miserably to detour the line of ensuing questions from scandal and controversy to basketball, but credit the effort.
He had a lot to sell.
Heat-Spurs a year ago was a seven-game thrill ride, epic, a classic, Miami rallying impossibly to break San Antonio’s heart after the NBA — oops! — had begun roping off the court for the Spurs’ celebration. It was a terrific Finals.
Heat-Spurs, the rematch, might be even better.
Tied 1-1 as it moves to Miami for Game 3 Tuesday night, it is hard to imagine this Finals won’t also roll a seven and send fans of both teams alternating between euphoria and dejection, or what Heat president Pat Riley once called “winning, or misery.”
No, an NBA Finals needn’t involve Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston or New York to be big or riveting. It can involve a couple of mid-size markets, as long as they pack the pedigree and star power of Miami and San Antonio.
The Heat’s LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen will waltz into the Hall of Fame, James among of course the greatest ever. Chris Bosh might make it, too.
The Spurs’ Tim Duncan and Tony Parker also are future first-ballot inductees, Duncan an all-time great.
Miami sharpens aim on a third consecutive championship and fourth crown in nine years.
And as he chases a fifth championship, Duncan, by himself, has played in more postseason games than the Heat in its franchise history. His first NBA Finals were a century ago — 1999, to be exact.
If this feels like a Finals for the ages, it is because these veteran teams are aged to perfection and seemingly have been powerhouses for ages, at least in a sports context.
The Heat wasn’t ready to be champion in 2011, the first of the four consecutive Finals appearances in the LeBron Era. They hadn’t been together long enough. There were dues owed.
Likewise, Oklahoma City wasn’t ready to be champion in 2012, against Miami.
But last season and in this Finals, two champions are at it, each as experienced as the other, each as basketball savvy, each as hungry.
The Heat by splitting the first two games has put itself in a great position to size control of the series if it can win the next two at home.
But does anyone paying attention doubt San Antonio is capable of winning in Miami?
An unexpected catalyst for Miami has been Bosh, second on the team averaging 18 points in the Finals including the last-minute, go-ahead shot in Game 2’s 98-96 win on a selfless pass from James.
Bosh has lived for four years as the least of the Big 3 in public perception. Remember those “Big 2 1/2” jokes? He has at times been seen as soft, passive, as a nearly 7-foot center who doesn’t get many rebounds. A big man on the perimeter, of the court, and of greatness.
Don’t share any doubts about Bosh with coach Erik Spolestra, though.
“He’s arguably our most important player, and it’s not just because of that shot [Sunday],” Spoelstra said. “He has a lot on his plate. He’s a two-way player on both ends, he has to facilitate and space the floor and find opportunities to be aggressive. It’s a tough balance. He’s versatile enough and important enough for us that he’s been able to find that. He’s one of the most stable, mentally tough guys I’ve ever been around. That’s why it raises the hair on the back of my neck when people question him. He has absolute championship DNA.”
Said Bosh: “I really don’t care about criticism,” but he hears it. After LeBron called himself “the easiest target in sports” for all the social-media venom he took over his Game 1 cramping, Bosh said, “I’m probably the second” easiest target.
Miami has a great chance to win the series, and championship, if Bosh continues as the aggressive force we have seen the first two games — the force who attacked and had a monster dunk in each of them.
It all starts with James, though, of course, as it did in Game 2 with his 35 points and 10 rebounds.
The mocking and hatred he felt after the cramping situation reminds us that his harsh, often irrational critics haven’t gone away, they just lay dormant, ready to pounce given any opportunity.
Only at home, in this arena, is he safe from all of that.
If he sends those home fans cheering into the night the rest of this series, Miami will be champion again.