SAN ANTONIO -- If the Heat go on to defeat the Spurs in the Finals, their 2012-13 regular season will be remembered years from now primarily for their 27-game winning streak, and the consistent dominance that such a run represents.
The postseason story -- at least after a perfunctory sweep of the Bucks and a breezy five-game victory over the Bulls -- has been less about autopilot excellence and more about alternating back and forth between strong, focused performances and disappointing, letdown losses.
Not since a closeout Game 5 win against Chicago in the conference semifinals and an overtime victory over Indiana in Game 1 of the conference finals has Miami managed consecutive victories. In its last 10 games -- covering their seven-game conference finals victory over the Pacers and the first four games of the Finals against the Spurs -- Miami is 5-5, perfectly alternating wins and losses along the way.
After the Heat's Big Three evened the Finals at two games apiece by putting it all together in a convincing 109-93 Game 4 win in San Antonio on Thursday, LeBron James said the yo-yo effect between wins and losses needs to stop.
"I think it's time," James said on Saturday, one day before Game 5 will tip in San Antonio's AT&T Center. "I think we're well overdue when it's time for us to win consecutive games. ... I think it's time. Enough is enough for our team."
James had his best night of the Finals in Game 4, shaking off a disappointing performance in Game 3 to score a game-high 33 points to with 11 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals. Although he stopped short of guaranteeing a Game 5 victory, James stressed that the Heat must avoid the type of lackadaisical defensive effort and questionable intensity level that led to problems in Game 3.
"I'm not saying it's going to result in us having a win, but we need to play with the same sense of urgency as if we were down 2-1, or whatever the case may be [Sunday] night," he said. "We can't wait around."
Achieving back-to-back wins was the mantra of the day for Miami, a team that hopes to return to South Florida on Monday in position to close out its second straight championship season in Game 6 on Tuesday. The swings between the games in this series have been enormous. In order, Miami has: lost by four, won by 19, lost by 36 and won by 16.
"It's not as if we have never won two in a row," Spoelstra said. "When you get to this level, it's tough to win two games in a row against an equal opponent. ... Hopefully [Sunday] we can have our best game of the series."
Spoelstra's concern, of course, is avoiding a repeat of San Antonio's 113-77 victory in Game 3, the worst postseason loss in the Heat's franchise history. Following a thorough, two-way victory in Game 2, the Heat appeared passive and lost on offense in Game 3, and they were totally picked apart on the defensive end as the Spurs knocked down a Finals-record 16 three-pointers.
"Every single one of us were disgusted and embarrassed about our performance in Game 3," Spoelstra said Saturday. "It was disgusting compared to Game 4."
As Dwyane Wade pointed out Saturday, the win-loss-win-loss alternating has reached a pivotal juncture, as the Heat can't win the Finals without winning consecutive games. They must win Game 5 to add on to their Game 4 win and then take either Game 6 or Game 7 in Miami; if they drop Game 5, they must take both Game 6 and Game 7.
"If we don't do two, we won't win a championship," Wade said. "I wasn't that smart in school, but I do know that. The numbers don't add up. We have to find a way to put a string together. ... In a sense, we had a little nervousness in us [in Game 4]. We played with that nervous energy and we did what we normally do."