Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat know better than anyone that the NBA Finals aren't over until somebody hoists that Larry O'Brien Trophy. They proved that by wriggling out of seemingly certain defeat in Game 6 against the San Antonio Spurs last year.
But the Heat also know San Antonio isn't likely to let another Finals slip away in similar fashion, which is why they're treating Thursday's Game 4 like a do-or-die affair:
.@ChrisBosh after morning shootaround: "This is a must win. We can not go back to San Antonio down 3-1. That is out of the question."— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) June 12, 2014
No, the Heat won't be eliminated if they fall to the Spurs for the third time in four Finals tilts. But they'll be looking up from the bottom of a 1-3 hole and heading back into hostile territory for Game 5 with two daunting survival options ahead of them, per Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN.com:
Dropping Game 3 means they either need to win three in a row, or take Game 7 in San Antonio. Neither of those scenarios is likely, especially considering how out of sorts some of their role players are right now. Chris Andersen looks hurt out there, and he was arguably their fourth-best player this season. This all bodes poorly.
When looking at the situation in those terms, you could even make the case that Game 3 was a must-win contest. It's hard to imagine the Heat, great as they are, notching three straight victories now—especially after watching the Spurs go all supernova on offense in Game 3.
And though we've seen Miami win big games in San Antonio before (like Game 2 of this very series, for example), the idea of a Game 7 on the road is far from appealing.
A loss in Game 4 would force the Heat to win three straight over the Spurs and take Game 7 on the road. And only eight teams in NBA history have rallied from a 1-3 deficit to win a playoff series.
Rocket science and brain surgery are usually the comparisons we employ when trying to emphasize how difficult a particular task is, but the path laid out ahead of the Heat following a potential Game 4 loss would rank right up there.
Miami has the best player in the known universe, a recent history of pulling off improbable Finals comebacks and two rings in the past two years. So if anyone can survive a 1-3 deficit, it's the Heat.
Oh, and they never lose back-to-back playoff games, which provides some hope for a pivotal Game 4, per Dan Feldman of NBC Sports:
The Heat are 13-0 following their last 13 playoff losses – forming a streak of 47 straight postseason games without consecutive losses. That ranks third all-time, and Miami could tie for second by the end of the 2014 Finals against the Spurs.
Game 4 really will be a must-win affair for Miami. Good thing it's perfectly equipped to prevail.