But the Heat's way will be second-guessed — just like everything about them is — if they don't pull out this series. There will be calls to break up the Big Three, criticisms of James, and everything else that Tim Duncan and the Spurs never had to deal with in small-market San Antonio.
"I guess if you allow yourself to be affected by it and you allow yourself to look and read everything, then everyone is under a microscope," Duncan said. "As I've said, I don't envy that kind of scrutiny and pressure in any way."
It's what the Heat signed up when James arrived and guaranteed titles three summers ago, and the pressure became even greater after they flopped the first time with their loss to Dallas at the end of their first season together.
The Heat looked so vulnerable then, but seeing them as bewildered as they were Wednesday was stunning. James too often seemed to linger around the perimeter, an old habit reappearing when it seemed he'd put it aside for good and wouldn't allow himself to settle for jumpers anymore when he could go into the post instead.
Part of the reason is the Spurs, with a solid defensive game plan and a versatile defender in Leonard who can apply it. But the Heat also realized another problem was simply their own effort — or lack thereof — in going for rebounds and loose balls.
"We just collectively played a very bad basketball game last night. And that was everybody, including the staff. It was hard to really judge anything and evaluate anything from that game," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "That's why after the film session, all we're focused on is how we prepare the next 24 hours to have our best game of the series tomorrow night."
Game 4 is where the Heat started to lose control of the series against Dallas two years ago, but they know it's where they have to regain it this time. They haven't lost two in a row in five months, and this isn't the time for that to end.
"We've been at our best when I guess our backs are up against the wall, and we're at it again," James said. "We'll see how we respond tomorrow."
Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney
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