Through two games of the NBA Finals, it looked as though the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs were evenly matched.
Things have changed significantly in the two games since then.
The Spurs used lights-out shooting to rout the Heat in both Game 3 and Game 4, and they now sit one win away from capturing a championship. Miami was able to overcome a 3-2 deficit last year—which is difficult in its own right—but coming back from 3-1 down is tough to fathom considering how well San Antonio is shooting.
If the Heat are going to pull off the comeback, though, it starts with Game 5 on Sunday. The chips are very much stacked against Miami, but anything can happen if LeBron James puts the team on his back.
Here is everything you need to know about Game 5 of the NBA Finals, including odds and bold predictions for how the possible title-clinching game will play out.
Where: AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas
When: Sunday, June 15 at 8 p.m. ET
Game 5 Odds (Courtesy of Odds Shark)
|San Antonio Spurs||-235||-5.5|
Game 5 Bold Predictions
LeBron James Scores 40 Points
In order for the Heat to have any hope of coming back in this series, LeBron needs to play like the best player in the world and then some. James has been the one constant in this series for Miami, as he has had moments of brilliance in every game, but he must raise his level of play to an even higher octave since he isn't getting much help from his supporting cast.
That was especially true in Game 4, as LeBron essentially had to do everything. According to Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders, it was a one-man show for Miami in the third quarter:
LeBron scored 19 of MIA's 21 points in 3rd quarter. He's only player in last 5 years to score 90% of his team's points in a Finals quarter.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) June 13, 2014
LeBron is the clear-cut leader of the team, and he didn't make any excuses after the Heat were once again trounced in Game 4, per SportsCenter:
"They smashed us... They came in and were much better than us in these two games. It’s that simple." – LeBron James #LIVEonSC— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 13, 2014
Everyone is fully cognizant of the fact that Miami faces an uphill climb, especially with how efficient San Antonio has been throughout this series. All the Heat can do at this point is focus on Game 5, which is precisely what James intends to do, according to the NBA's official Twitter account:
For all the unfair and uncalled-for criticism that James receives, there is no question that he is capable of taking over games—particularly on the big stage. That is exactly what James did in Game 2 of this year's NBA Finals, which is the only contest that Miami has won thus far.
LeBron took matters into his own hands, as he dropped 35 points on nearly 64 percent shooting in an MVP-worthy performance. As much of a challenge as it is, James may have to be even better for the Heat to win Game 5.
King James knows that his back is against the wall, so he will do everything in his power to come through with a virtuoso performance. Look for LeBron to come through with a 40-point showing in hopes that it is enough to extend the series to a sixth game.
Shane Battier Starts
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra is now in a position where he has to do something with the starting lineup in order to spark a change. LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh aren't going anywhere, so either point guard Mario Chalmers, forward Rashard Lewis or both need to be relegated to the bench. Lewis started the series well, but his magic has clearly worn off.
Lewis scored just two points in Game 4 and had a minus-17 rating when on the floor. Miami has had its issues offensively, but defense is the real reason why the Heat are in a 3-1 hole. They need to defend with far more ferocity and efficiency, which is where Shane Battier could come into play.
Battier was absolutely huge for the Heat in last year's NBA Finals, but he hasn't really been given a chance this year. He has played a total of just 23 minutes in four games and hasn't scored a single point, which is a trend when it comes to Miami's supporting cast, according to Sean Deveney of Sporting News:
Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem have scored a total of 29 points in four Finals games.— Sean Deveney (@SeanDeveney) June 13, 2014
It is possible that Battier is done at the age of 35, but Spoelstra has to try something. The current starting combination simply isn't working, so utilizing a player like Battier, who has experience and is willing to lay it all on the line, is a no-brainer at this point.
Battier was an unsung hero in the Heat's championship run last season, and perhaps he can play a similar role in Miami's attempt at an NBA Finals comeback this year.
How will this series play out?
As dire as things look for the Heat right now, it is difficult to imagine LeBron allowing his team to go down with a whimper. Miami has looked absolutely punchless over the past two games while the Spurs have turned in two of the finest offensive performances in the history of the NBA Finals. The law of averages suggests that San Antonio is bound to miss some shots eventually.
The Spurs have shot 57 percent or better from the field in each of the past two games, but if the Heat find a way to turn up the defensive intensity through tactics such as inserting Battier into the starting the lineup, they can cool down San Antonio's hot shooting.
It all comes down to LeBron when push comes to shove, and there is no question that he will be motivated to keep this series going. Detractors are lying in wait and licking their chops in hopes of James and the Heat going down in five games, so look for LeBron to play with a chip on his shoulder.
Provided he does, the Heat will find a way to take Game 5 and go back home with a chance to even the series.
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