NBA Finals 2012: Why the Pressure Is Still on the Miami Heat

Sam Quinn@@Samquinn23Contributor IIIJune 21, 2012

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 19:  (L-R) Dwyane Wade #3 and LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat react against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Four of the 2012 NBA Finals on June 19, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

LeBron James and the Miami Heat are up 3-1 in the NBA Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder and are heavily favored to win their first championship of the big three era, but the pressure is still on them to get things done tonight.

The Heat came close last year. At points in Games 2 and 4 of last year, it looked like the series was over, but Dallas came back to win both games and the title. For LeBron and the Heat, it ain't over 'til it's over. 

Miami is obviously favored in Game 5 at home. They've won the last three games in the series and look poised to take home the title. But remember, Oklahoma City isn't going to go down without a fight.

Against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, they came back from a 2-0 deficit to win four straight and the series—including Game 5 on the road.

The Heat need to do everything in their power to finish the series at home and avoiding the same fate as the Spurs. If the Thunder can just get back home, they'll be in a position to potentially steal the series from the Heat.

They're 9-1 at home, and while it's certainly possible that Miami could win Game 6 or Game 7 in Oklahoma City, the Thunder would likely be favored in both games. 

Oklahoma City would also pick up some valuable momentum if they could steal Game 5 in Miami. They've had some devastating losses in this series, so momentum will be crucial if they want to try to come back. 

There would also be immense personal pressure on LeBron if the Heat can't win Game 5. He's been ridiculed for not being clutch since he came to the Heat. While he's traditionally been excellent when his back is against the wall, he's struggled in games where he's had a chance to finish off an opponent. Think Games 2 and 4 of the Finals last year or Game 4 against Boston in 2010. 

The Heat are still in complete command of this series. Even if they lose tonight, they'll have two more chances to win the championship. But the pressure is still on them, and will remain that way until the series is over and they're holding the trophy.