The 2013 NBA Finals are approaching their end, as the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs are tied at 2-2. With the series reaching a momentous Game 5, both squads are in must-win mode as their dreams of winning the NBA championship are in danger of withering away.
No matter how impressive they've looked on their best nights, both teams have burning questions entering Sunday night's 8 p.m. ET tipoff. Game 5 is one of the most important times of all in a playoff series, as the numbers indicate.
In 2-3-2 format (since 1985) when an NBA Finals series is tied 2-2, the Game 5 winner has gone on to win 7 of 10 series.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 14, 2013
Winning Game 5 takes more than just walking into the building and having passion. Instead, both the Heat and Spurs have concerns about what will and will not go in their favor when the game rolls around.
The team that answers its share of questions will win Game 5.
5. Does Home Court Matter?
During the 2012-13 NBA regular season, the Heat were 37-4 at home. Yet they are 6-3 during their past nine home games in the postseason, dropping one in each of their past three series.
The Spurs, meanwhile, were 23-18 on the road during the regular season. During the postseason, however, the Spurs are 7-2 on the road, owning at least one road victory in every series they've played.
Does home-court advantage actually matter?
Regardless of who wins Game 5, neither team is in true control of this series. For that reason, these next four questions are maximized in value.
4. Who Is the Real Chris Bosh?
To say that Chris Bosh was a shell of himself during the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals would be a compliment. In fact, Bosh was horrendous, averaging 11.0 points and 4.3 rebounds on 37.7 percent shooting from the field.
During the NBA Finals, Bosh has looked more like himself.
Through four games, Bosh is averaging 14.3 points and 9.5 rebounds on 48.0 percent shooting from the field. He's also averaging 2.3 steals and 1.8 blocks per contest, which displays just how important he's been defensively.
Bosh has been a significantly better rebounder in this series, registering three double-figure rebounding games, but he's only eclipsed 13 points once in the past eight games.
Fortunately for the Heat, that one instance was their most recent outing. If Bosh is able to put on yet another 20-point and 13-rebound performance, the Heat will be in great shape.
3. Is Manu Ginobili Done?
Manu Ginobili is a Hall of Fame shooting guard with a championship pedigree and a penchant for showing up in the clutch. During the 2013 NBA playoffs, and more specifically the finals, that hasn't been the case.
Ginobili has filled up the stat sheet, averaging 10.6 points, 4.8 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 25.4 minutes of action in the playoffs. But the 35-year-old hasn't been efficient, posting a slash line of .377/.298/.710.
Manu Ginobili's 7.5 PPG in these NBA Finals are his lowest in a playoff series in his NBA career.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 15, 2013
Can he turn it around?
2. Who Takes the Last Shot for Miami?
According to ESPN, LeBron is shooting 26.6 percent from the field and 11.1 percent from beyond the arc during "clutch time" over the last three NBA Finals series. Clutch time is defined as "the last five minutes with the score within five points."
Who takes the last shot for Miami? We haven't had to answer that question just yet, as three of the four games have been lopsided, but Ray Allen, Chris Bosh, James and Dwyane Wade all attempted field goals during the final 1:28 of Miami's Game 1 92-88 loss.
Will this question haunt the Heat?
1. Is Tony Parker Healthy?
If James is to disappear as he did in Game 3, the Heat still have Wade and Bosh to run the show. If Tim Duncan struggles to score along the interior, San Antonio still has an abundance of three-point shooters to give him space.
If Tony Parker isn't at 100 percent, though, the Spurs' title dreams take a big hit.
That's a scary reality for the Spurs, as Parker is currently battling a hamstring injury that could limit his mobility. While head coach Gregg Popovich said Parker will be fine for Game 5, all is not well for the 31-year-old.
Tony Parker: "My hamstring could tear at any time." Said if this was the regular season, he'd definitely be resting. #nbafinals— Rod Boone (@rodboone) June 15, 2013
As we know him to be, Parker has committed to a warrior's mentality.
Tony Parker on his hamstring strain possibly tearing as he continues to play on it: "If it gets a tear, it's life.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) June 15, 2013
Why is he doing this?
Tony Parker on crucial Game 5: "It's a must‑win. It's a great opportunity for us. It's a big game. We have to win. Simple as that."— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) June 15, 2013
They may be four-time NBA champions, but three of those titles have come with Parker running point. The Spurs were tied at 49-49 before Parker's hamstring tightened up in Game 4, and they ended up losing 109-93 after the injury.
Needless to say, he is vital.