The San Antonio Spurs currently have a 3-1 advantage in the 2014 NBA Finals, and the Miami Heat are on the brink of elimination for what seems like the first time in years.
You never know what can happen in today's NBA, especially when a team like Miami is still alive. This team is built to win in the playoffs even if it hasn't been shown in this series.
Game 5 represents a make-or-break contest for Miami. A win means the Heat can start a run at three straight wins. A loss means they go home runners-up.
Nobody knows if Game 5 will spell the end for Miami. If Game 4 is any indication, then this team is finished. That's why they play the games, however.
Below, you'll find my bold predictions for Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
Kawhi Leonard Paces All Scorers
Kawhi Leonard has been outstanding this series, both offensively and defensively. Defensively, he has done a stellar job of limiting LeBron James' chances and forcing him to either take bad shots or dish out to his teammates.
Offensively, though, Leonard has surprised.
He led the Spurs with 20 points in Game 4. This came on 7-of-12 shooting, including 1-of-3 from beyond the arc. Leonard isn't a volume scorer. He has helped this team shoot efficiently and capitalize on opportunities. That's what makes him a quality performer.
Leonard had the second-most points overall in Game 4. James dropped 28 on the Spurs defense, though he did so on 10-of-17 from the floor.
It's hard to pick against James when choosing a game's high-scorer ahead of time, but I'm jumping on the Leonard train. He has been fantastic, and there's no reason to believe he'll slow down.
He scored a career-high 29 points in Game 3. I don't think he'll eclipse that mark, but I say he'll score anywhere from 24 to 29 points to pace all scorers in Game 5.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade Combine for Less Than 40
This prediction has much more to do with Dwyane Wade's ineffectiveness than it does with James' inability to score consistently against Leonard. Even in Game 4 when Leonard was all over James, the world's best player still dropped 28.
No, this is all about Wade.
Wade has looked like a shell of his former self this series. His worst performance came on Thursday, as he scored just 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports broke down some key points of the poor showing:
Wade missed nine of his first 10 shots through three quarters. He looked a step slow. He didn't shoot a 3-pointer and also missed half of his eight free throws. He was dunked on by 6-foot-8, 250-pound Spurs forward Boris Diaw and had Diaw drive around him for a layup on another possession.
Spears also noted that Wade claims the "law of averages" will help him next time out:
The ball just didn't go in. I will take the law of averages next time. ... I just missed them. I'm a very accurate shooter, so I don't like missing. I'm not used to missing around the basket. But the law of averages, man.
The former superstar has looked a step or two slower than in past years, and I don't think he'll bounce back in this series. I think James goes for 25 and Wade goes for 12 in Game 5, giving them a combined 37 points.
Tim Duncan Calls it Quits
Tim Duncan, a 17-year veteran, is on the last legs of his brilliant NBA career. The 38-year-old has become one of the top big men of all time. His nickname, the Big Fundamental, speaks to the type of game he has played for the entirety of his illustrious career.
All good things come to an end, however.
Former NBA coach George Karl heard whispers back in February that this would be Duncan's last season, via Royce Young of CBS Sports:
You know over the weekend, that was the whispers that I got. I got a couple of phone calls, one from San Antonio, that said that Tim Duncan's thinking this is going to be his last year. The best, most fundamental big guy ever to play in the NBA, and him leaving would make me very very sad. The San Antonio Spurs without Tim Duncan would be very difficult for me to watch.
I've not come to that point yet. I don't know when I'm going to retire, I don't know what the factors are going to be. I don't know any of that and I don't care about any of that stuff right in now. I'm not thinking about that in that respect. It will happen when it happens. I'll feel it and I'll know it and I'll call it a day.
NBA.com's Adam Zagoria is preparing himself for the end of Duncan's career just in case he decides to call it quits after a potential series-clinching win in Game 5:
I'm going along with Zagoria here. There's no better way for Duncan to go out than on top of his game. The last thing the Big Fundamental should do is stick around long enough to watch his fundamentals whither away. He hasn't shown any signs of that yet, but Duncan's legs aren't what they once were.
In a prideful move, I expect Duncan to announce his retirement shortly after Game 5.
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