The Miami Heat returned to south Florida on Friday determined to regain their confidence in the wake of two demoralizing losses to the Dallas Mavericks in which LeBron James vanished during crunch time.
Dallas hold a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series and need to win either today or on Tuesday to claim the first championship in their three-decade existence.
“We go back to Miami and we wouldn’t have it any other way,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We worked extremely hard to get that home court. Nothing that we’ve achieved this year has been easy. So we’re certainly not going to start now.”
The Heat won the first game in Dallas to take a 2-1 series lead, but lost the next two and with it some of the their confidence that they can beat the rejuvenated Mavericks.
Spoelstra’s crew refuse to consider themselves one game away from elimination.
“We look at it the other way,” he said. “We’re going home, and we wouldn’t have it any other way than the hard way. This is an opportunity for us. That’s why you play a seven-game series. You got to play it out and this is where we feel comfortable.”
The most puzzling feature of the series has been James’s late-game disappearing act with the stakes at their highest.
He was scoreless in the fourth quarter of Dallas’s 86-83 win on Tuesday and he hit only one of four shots, an uncontested lay-up with 29 seconds left, in the 112-103 loss to the Mavericks on Thursday.
James, who had 17 points in Thursday’s game with 10 rebounds and 10 assists, dismissed concerns about his fourth quarter wash-out, saying his team did not need him to shoot.
“I don’t think it was a case of offense,” said James, a former scoring champion. “There was enough offensive play. We shot 52 percent. They shot 56 percent. We scored 103 points, they scored 112. The offense wasn’t a problem.”
For the series, James has only 11 points in total in the fourth quarters, a paltry return given most of the games have gone down to the wire and he is one of the league’s top players.
Heat forward Chris Bosh, who, like James, took the free agent route last summer to join fellow All-Star Dwyane Wade in Miami, said it was “comfortable being back at home.”
“We expect to bounce back,” Bosh said. “We’re at home. Those shots are going to fall and we’re going to play much better. We’re going to try and take this thing to seven games.”