They entered the game with title No. 5 sitting right there in front of them. They had two cracks to bring the trophy back home to San Antonio, but the last thing they wanted was to have to play a Game 7 against LeBron James on the road for the championship. There have only been five Game 7s in the finals since 1978, with the home team winning all those contests. The last road team to win a Game 7 for the title was the Washington Bullets over the Seattle SuperSonics in 1978.
Chalmers was 4 for 19 over his last three games, but came alive in this must-win for Miami. He made 5 of 7 shots, including two 3s, in the first half to get the Heat out quickly.
Wade seemed to tweak his left knee after being whistled for an offensive foul early in the first quarter, but he looked fine moments later when he dunked over Duncan to tie the game at 16.
It's been 12 games since the Heat have won two in a row, a startling stretch of inconsistency for a team that won 27 straight in the regular season and figured to turn this postseason into a coronation rather than a competition.
But the short-handed Chicago Bulls put up an inspired fight in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Indiana Pacers took them the full seven in a rugged conference finals and the Spurs picked them apart in three of the first five games in this series.
For most of the last two months, the Heat have preferred to wait until they were in serious trouble before finding that extra gear that only they seem to have. Down 2-1 in the series, James, Wade and Bosh combined for 85 points to even the series.
It doesn't get any more serious than what the Heat faced when they walked into American Airlines Arena on Tuesday night.
One more uninspired performance from their three All-Stars, one more lazy night on defense, one more loss and the Heat were done for the season. The prospects of falling to 1-2 in NBA Finals appearances since James, Wade and Bosh united in 2010 loomed over a team that was constructed to win not just one title, but multiple crowns.
In the unflappable Spurs, the Heat may be facing their biggest challenge yet. Duncan, Parker and Ginobili have teamed to win three championships, so they know what it takes to deliver in the finals. And youngsters like Green and Leonard have shown that even when LeBron and Co. flex their muscle, like they did in Games 2 and 4, they come right back at them.
For as much as James and the Heat had riding on this finals appearance, the Spurs may have even more. Duncan is 37, while Ginobili will soon turn 36 and is in the final year of his contract, giving the feeling that after so many premature proclamations of demise for this core group.
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