Despite the outcome of its game the night before, Heat players weren’t moping around Friday.
Yes, Miami trails the San Antonio Spurs 1-0 in the NBA Finals after the Spurs pulled out a 92-88 victory Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
It is a position the Heat has been in before — and seems to thrive in.
In the previous three times Miami opened a playoff series with a Game 1 loss, it won the following four games. It happened just last month against the Bulls in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
In the 2006 Finals, the Heat lost Games 1 and 2 in Dallas only to beat the Mavericks in the following four games, including the final game in Dallas. In last season’s Finals, Miami lost the opener in Oklahoma City before winning the remainder of its games, taking the clincher in Game 5 at home.
Of course, the Heat knows this Spurs team — one that has won four NBA titles since 1999 — isn’t exactly looking at Miami’s history and shuddering.
Miami plays host to San Antonio in Game 2 of the Finals on Sunday night. The series then shifts to San Antonio for Games 3, 4 and 5 starting Tuesday.
“You want to win every game,” Dwyane Wade said. “That history-repeats-itself thing, hopefully, that would be great. But right now, we have to figure out how to make the adjustments to win Game 2. We’re playing a very good team, a very intelligent, smart team.
“We have to break the code, have to crack the code and figure out how to be more effective, you know, in Game 2 than we were in Game 1.”
The Heat not only has past postseason history on its side but also its performances this season.
Although Miami has gone just 4-4 over its past eight games, the Heat hasn’t lost consecutive games since Jan. 10.
San Antonio, coincidentally, hasn’t lost a postseason game since May 12 — and hasn’t lost back-to-back games since dropping three in a row at the end of the regular season.
The Spurs have won seven in a row dating to their Western Conference semifinal series against Golden State. Last season, however, the Spurs took a 2-0 series lead on Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals before losing the final four games.
“It’s not easy, for sure,” LeBron James said. “It’s definitely not going to be easy versus this team we’re going against now. But we’ve been able to get better. We’ve been able to make adjustments going from one game to the next. We kind of just bounce back after a loss.
“No matter if it’s on the road or at home, we’ve been able to bounce back.”
Said Wade: “We’ll figure it out. We’re a team that always makes the adjustment. I’m not saying it’s guaranteed we’re going to make the adjustment that’s going to win us the game. But I feel we’ll play better, especially when we’re in those moments. That’s kind of what we pride ourselves on.”
With all the rain in South Florida it might have appeared that the sun didn’t come up Friday, but it was there somewhere.
Miami isn’t used to all this losing, after all. The Heat did go 45-3 from Feb. 3 through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Since disposing of Chicago in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, however, Miami has split its past eight games. The quality of the competition has obviously increased.
“I think as the rounds go on and on, the opponents and the teams that you’re facing become better,” James said. “We know that. We’ve been able to get better as well. We’re in the NBA Finals; we can’t worry about we’re 4-4 in the last eight games. We’re in the NBA Finals, and we have to try to make the most of it.”
Said Mike Miller: “We knew this wasn’t going to be easy. You can’t panic, and we won’t. It’s difficult to lose Game 1 on our home court, but we’re going to move on.”
Coach Erik Spoelstra has concerns after Thursday’s loss, although Miami played well at times and trailed by just two with 1:28 left after Ray Allen sank three free throws.
But Miami scored just 16 points in the fourth quarter as San Antonio forced the Heat into four turnovers (equal to Miami’s total in the previous three quarters) and various “dry possessions,” as Spoelstra called them.
The Heat also scored six of its 16 fourth-quarter points from the free-throw line, as Miami went cold from the field, shooting just 5 of 18 in the quarter.
James scored six of his 18 points in the final 3:10 of the game. He was the only member of Miami’s Big 3 to score from the 7:28 mark after Chris Bosh made a jumper.
Wade went scoreless in the final quarter, and Bosh — who missed a wide-open three-pointer with 1:02 left — scored just two points.
Miami knows it needs more from its top-end players if history will indeed repeat itself.
“You have to have tough character,” Spoelstra said. “Our guys want to win, and they are competitive, Type-A personalities. It’s not as if we need motivation and we didn’t come in inspired. No, it wouldn’t give the Spurs the credit they deserved [Thursday night].
“They made bigger plays and more plays in the fourth quarter going down the stretch.”