MIAMI — The Miami Heat weren't supposed to be in this situation. Not now, anyway.
Coming home from Texas with their season on the line in 2011 was one thing. They were at the end of their first year together — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh still trying to figure it all out and clearly a long way from it.
But this season they were the NBA's best team, one that lost three games in three months and made losing three times in one series look unlikely, if not downright unimaginable.
The San Antonio Spurs can finish Miami off Tuesday night in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, reaffirming themselves as one of the league's greatest franchises.
If so, the Heat's Big Three once again go from celebrated to devastated.
"We're going to see if we're a better team than we were our first year together," James said.
The Spurs took a 3-2 lead with their 114-104 victory Sunday night. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were all brilliant again, and Danny Green added to what could become one of the most out-of-nowhere finals MVP campaigns ever.
One more victory makes the Spurs 5-0 in the NBA Finals, keeping pace with Michael Jordan's 6-0 Chicago Bulls as the only teams to make it here multiple times and never lose.
"We understand Game 6 is huge," Parker said. "Obviously, you want to finish in the first opportunity you get. We understand that Miami is going to come out with a lot more energy, and they're going to play better at home. They're going to shoot the ball better. Their crowd is going to be behind them."
None of that mattered two years ago.
Clearly reeling and their psyches shaken after dropping two straight games in Dallas, the Heat were blitzed early in Game 6. They never recovered, Bosh inconsolable as he made his way back to the locker room afterward while the Mavericks celebrated at center court.
James had to endure the criticisms that came with not getting it done in the finals, a story line that was put to rest last year but will be back again if the Heat don't manage to put together consecutive victories.
"We challenge ourselves to see if we're a better team than we were," Wade said. "Same position no matter how we got to it."
The Heat would also host Game 7 on Thursday. They're trying to join the 1988 and 2010 Los Angeles Lakers and 1994 Houston Rockets as the only teams to rally from 3-2 down by winning the final two on their home floor since the NBA Finals went to a 2-3-2 format in 1985.
Of course, the Heat — who won 27 in a row during the second-longest winning streak in league history — haven't put together consecutive victories now in close to a month.
"We're in a position where it's a must-win and everything that we've done all year comes to this point, and we have to win," Heat guard Ray Allen said. "We've found ourselves in so many situations this year, and we've thrived in tough moments because this is a tough team. We will be ready for Game 6."
So will the Spurs, and the Heat know it.
"I'm sure this team, they've been here before many times. They understand winning that last game is one of the hardest things you're going to do. And we understand it as well," Wade said.
|Tennessee||12/18/14 7:25 PM|
|Philadelphia||12/20/14 3:30 PM|
|San Diego||12/20/14 7:25 PM|
|Minnesota||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Baltimore||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Detroit||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Cleveland||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Atlanta||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Green Bay||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Kansas City||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|New England||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|NY Giants||12/21/14 3:05 PM|
|Buffalo||12/21/14 3:25 PM|
|Indianapolis||12/21/14 3:25 PM|
|Seattle||12/21/14 7:30 PM|
|Denver||12/22/14 7:30 PM|
|Atlanta||108||4th Qtr 8:00|
|Phoenix||93||4th Qtr 8:51|
|Dallas||53||3rd Qtr 11:25|
|Orlando||63||3rd Qtr 7:17|
|Brooklyn||41||2nd Qtr 5:57|
|Memphis||14||1st Qtr 6:00|
|James Madison||67||2nd Half 1:45|
|SIU Edwardsville||60||2nd Half 1:00|
|North Florida||55||2nd Half 7:34|
|Catawba||69||2nd Half 0:20|
|Hampton||44||2nd Half 3:22|
|Gardner-Webb||65||2nd Half 1:07|
|Longwood||54||2nd Half 2:24|
|Tennessee||65||2nd Half 1:38|
|Manhattan||52||2nd Half 1:49|
|Kennesaw St||88||2nd Half 0:27|
|Barber-Scotia||52||2nd Half 0:17|
|Detroit||43||2nd Half 11:04|
|Liberty||37||2nd Half 11:04|
|TX A&M-CC||18||1st Half 0:13|
|Ark-Pine Bluff||27||2nd Half|
|UT Martin||18||2nd Half|
|Milligan||34||1st Half 3:00|
|Abilene Christian||29||2nd Half|
|USC Upstate||29||2nd Half|
|Alcorn State||24||2nd Half|
|Central Mich||36||2nd Half|
|Georgia State||27||2nd Half|
|TX-Pan American||26||1st Half 0:33|
|Texas State||30||2nd Half|
|Stephen F Austin||27|
|SC State||23||1st Half 0:04|
|Missouri State||28||2nd Half|
|Chicago State||33||2nd Half|
|Morehead State||20||1st Half 3:48|
|Northern Colorado||32||2nd Half|
|New Mexico St||8:00 PM|
|San Diego St||8:00 PM|
|Eastern Mich||8:00 PM|
|Loyola Marymount||8:00 PM|
|Incarnate Word||8:00 PM|
|Central Arkansas||9:00 PM|
|Grambling St||10:00 PM|
|Nevada||12/20/14 10:00 AM|
|Utah State||12/20/14 1:20 PM|
|(23) Utah||12/20/14 2:30 PM|
|Western Mich||12/20/14 4:45 PM|
|South Alabama||12/20/14 8:15 PM|
|BYU||12/22/14 1:00 PM|
|Marshall||12/23/14 5:00 PM|
|Navy||12/23/14 8:30 PM|
|San Diego St|
|Central Mich||12/24/14 11:00 AM|
|Fresno State||12/24/14 7:00 PM|
|(21) Miss State||66||FINAL|
|(1) South Carolina||69||FINAL|
|Fla Gulf Coast||91||FINAL|
|Northern Colorado||41||2nd Half 3:44|
|Youngstown St||61||1st OT|
|Northwestern||86||2nd Half 0:43|
|NC A&T||66||1st OT|
|NC Central||52||2nd Half|
|Alabama State||51||2nd Half 1:24|
|Morehead St||51||2nd Half 7:57|
|Prairie View||34||2nd Half 16:04|
|Sam Houston St||33|
|McNeese State||19||1st Half 0:05|
|Oakland||25||1st Half 0:50|
|Eastern Kentucky||41||2nd Half|
|SIU-Edwardsville||17||1st Half 0:31|
|North Texas||9:00 PM|