But while James — and millions of critics worldwide — wanted to pile all the pressure on the league's MVP, it was Wade on Wednesday who said it was the Heat's three All-Stars who had to lead them together, or there would be no championship.
He was right. And now those championship hopes are right back on track.
"It was all about myself, Chris and LeBron coming out and leading this team to a victory," Wade said.
"The thing we talked about is we all have to make an impact in this game, somehow, some way."
Wade shot 14 of 25, adding six steals, six rebounds and four assists in a performance that James compared to when Wade was MVP of the 2006 finals.
Tony Parker had 15 points and nine assists for the Spurs, who made a finals-record 16 3-pointers on Tuesday but got up only 16 attempts in this one.
Gary Neal scored 13 points and Danny Green had 10, solid nights but nothing like when they combined for 13 3-pointers two nights earlier.
"They play very aggressive defense," Parker said. "They gamble and they take a lot of chances, and tonight it worked."
The Heat guaranteed they will get at least one more game on their home floor. Game 6 will be Tuesday night, where they could have a chance to celebrate a second straight championship.
The revelry in South Florida was marred Thursday by an accident in which the deck behind a popular sports bar collapsed during the game, spilling patrons into Biscayne Bay. Miami Dade Fire Chief David Downey said 24 people were transported to area hospitals, and that two people were in serious condition.
"We share our concerns for all that was injured at Shuckers restaurant," Wade said as he started his postgame news conference.
Wade, battling right knee pain throughout the spring, helped the Heat put it away in the fourth quarter. He followed a basket with a steal and dunk, pushing the lead to 90-81, and after he made another jumper, Bosh scored the next six Heat points, taking the load off James.
"We're not going to put him on an island," Bosh said. "He's never alone. We're out there with him."
The Heat switched their lineup, inserting Mike Miller, who made 10 of his 11 shots, going 9 of 10 on 3-pointers, in the first three games of the series. He was scoreless on Thursday.
The Heat changed uniforms, too, switching from their road reds to their blacks.
The only change they really needed was in the performances of their Big Three.
James called it a "must-win" and it probably was: No team has overcome a 3-1 deficit in the finals.
And the way their three stars played, they couldn't lose.