Miami Heat

David J. Neal: On the brink, Miami Heat must now perform

For Tuesday’s NBA Finals Game 6, the bus that rolls into AmericanAirlines Arena bringing the San Antonio Spurs should be painted like the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine. Maybe the Heat, which already sells jerseys in more flavors than Baskin-Robbins, should add one sprinkled with little question marks, Riddler-style.

Because of the circumstances of the two regular-season games, with the road team not dressing star players, we came into this series knowing little. Five games in, we might know even less.

This is a series in which, with enough future Hall of Famers to make Phil Jackson tingly, the only consistency has been provided by Spurs gunner Danny Green. It’s easy to mistake his name with that of the former Vikings and Cardinals coach, but Green hasn’t been who everybody thought he would be this series. The record three-point shooting of a guy with almost as many NBA Developmental League stints as NBA stints has the Spurs close to being crowned champions of a Heat-dominated season.

We’ve seen LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili have the nadirs of their NBA Finals careers then rebound with strong multifaceted performances. Results alternate, no matter the venue.

The road is supposed to be a little disorienting, especially those places you play only once a season. Occurrences can take on an Alternate Earth quality. That’s the way the Heat looked in San Antonio for Game 3, as if it was still trying to figure out where it was and why it was playing this strange game with the bouncy ball. The team looked similarly woozy most of Game 5 with each missed layup, each unfocused turnover in a litany of unforced errors rivaling a tennis meltdown.

Hard to explain

James and Wade combined to go 9 of 25 on layups, dunks and plays at the rim in Game 5. Just as Duncan missed 10 of 13 shots in Game 2 at the AAA.

But, then, how to explain James and Wade both popping for more than 30 in Game 4 in San Antonio? And San Antonio’s Tony Parker finishing off a grand Game 1 performance with a jump shot after a sliding, spinning dribbling exhibition that made the Heat look like his Washington Generals?

You can’t. It has been that kind of series. No wonder San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich turned up the grumpiness before Game 5. Popovich likes to know what he’ll get, craves that certainty. This series drives people like that grouchy.

The Heat had no media availability Monday, which was fine. There’s nothing more to say, really. Besides, nobody knows nothin’.

Wait — we know what type of effort we’ll see Tuesday from the Heat. Don’t we? No, not really. The only thing we can say with any certainty so far is: “The team closest to the brink performs best.”

The Heat needed Game 2 to avoid going to San Antonio down 2-0. Game 3: San Antonio couldn’t afford to let the Heat take a 2-1 lead and play with house money for two remaining road games.

Game 4: going down 3-1 to a team like the Spurs equaled doom for the Heat. Game 5: the Spurs had to come back here up 3-2 or face not just winning two road games, but two consecutive road games against a team that feasts at home.

Heat’s turn to win?

So, that says the Heat wins Tuesday. It is the team closest to the brink. Isn’t it? What about the Spurs, in the bigger picture? Time closes on San Antonio faster than the Heat (particularly if you’re talking about the Heat’s perimeter defense in Games 3 and 5).

The Heat can prolong its Big 3 era, if it chooses. Even if the team doesn’t beyond next year, there’s still next year.

San Antonio can’t stop the clock on Duncan and Ginobili, who aren’t that much younger than the guys in Cialis ads.

Just play the game. One more episode that might or might not be the season finale.

Unfold the drama and let us enjoy it.

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