MIAMI — Dwyane Wade thinks there’s no one better than the Miami Heat at dealing with the mental challenge of the playoffs. In his eyes, only one other team might compare.
He’s talking about the San Antonio Spurs.
That’s why Wade believes these NBA Finals are just getting started.
When he looks at the Spurs, he sees qualities his own team has, including an ability to break down a loss and quickly correct things. It’s what Miami did before Game 2 of the finals and it’s what Wade expects the Spurs to do before the title series resumes with Game 3 in Miami on Tuesday night.
“You never put them away,” Wade said. “I think they always believe and it’s the same with us. You can’t, you won’t, put us away because we’re always going to believe. That’s why this is a perfect, different animal, kind of series. They’re the other team like us. They don’t lose much and when they do they come back and be better in the next game. So we’ve got to come out and do the same thing.”
That would explain why on Monday, instead of a day off, the Heat gathered to watch video of Game 2.
By winning in San Antonio to even the finals at 1-1, home-court advantage now belongs to the Heat. But no one in their locker room thinks it’s going to get easy now.
“They came out great. They played a great game,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said after Miami’s 98-96 win in Game 2, the 13th straight time the Heat immediately followed a postseason loss with a victory. “Now it’s our turn to go over there and get one. We played pretty well all season long on the road and so we’re going to have two great opportunities to try to come up with a win.”
Miami has won a franchise-record 11 straight postseason games at home.
The last team to win a playoff game in Miami was the Spurs, winning Game 1 of last season’s finals.
“We are in a tough situation because we’ve got to go to Miami and we’ve got to get one,” Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. “We don’t want to come back here 3-1 down. It’s very hard to overcome that. Definitely going to be a great challenge for the team to play in an arena like that and having to win.”
A challenge, sure, but it’s one Heat coach Erik Spoelstra knows the Spurs can handle.
“Coming back here there has to be an incredible sense of focus and urgency,” Spoelstra said Monday. “They’re a veteran, poised, championship-level team that’s been through a lot. The crowd won’t affect them much.”
Neither team thought it played all that well in the game that it won so far in these finals.
The Spurs turned the ball over too much for their liking in Game 1 — the game that will be remembered for the air conditioning malfunction and cramps inside a steamy building forcing LeBron James to leave in the final minutes. In Game 2, the Heat weren’t thrilled with a slow start and how they spent much of the game playing from behind.
When James got rolling in the third quarter, things started swinging Miami’s way in Game 2. When he found Chris Bosh for the 3-pointer that put Miami ahead for good with 1:18 left, it was just another example of the four-time MVP setting a teammate up for a big play.
“I’m going to make the right play,” said James, who signaled to Bosh about what he wanted on that play. “To have that trust from my teammates, they know when I’ve got the ball, I’m going to make the right play. Doesn’t mean it’s going to go in. Doesn’t mean it’s going to result in a win, but they believe in my ability.”
The pressure, if Miami had not found a way to win in the final moments of Game 2, would have been enormous on the two-time defending champions.
Now, it seems to have shifted to the Spurs.
“It doesn’t matter what we’ve been through before,” Spurs forward Tim Duncan said. “We’re here now again.”
The last time these teams met in Miami at this time of year, the Heat wound up spraying champagne in their locker room.
It’s tempting, Bosh acknowledged, to think that all Miami needs to do for a third straight championship is stay unbeaten at home.
But Bosh won’t let himself go there.
“I can only think about Game 3,” Bosh said. “We’ve played well at home this postseason. I think we feel we have an advantage now. We have to make sure that we play well and keep it that way.”