SAN ANTONIO -- The Heat stayed in Miami on Friday, which presented a bit of a dilemma for Saturday's off-day plans. Reporters trudged out to the Spurs' practice facility around 10 a.m. to meet with the Spurs. A little after noon, we left the gym for a few hours and came back around 4 for the Heat, who were coming straight from the airport. Predictably, and grumpily, they were about 45 minutes late.
The press corps was notably thinned out by this time, but there were enough of us on hand to play our favorite game: getting inside people's heads and reading between the lines. Depending on your perspective, the Heat were either annoyed and a touch defiant, or resigned and frustrated.
"Don't overthink it," Ray Allen said. "This is just basketball. If you watched any game over the last 10 years in the NBA Finals or the NBA playoffs, there are certain moments that stick out, certain players that stick out, certain games that stick out, but for the most part the game is over with and you move on. You talk about a guy that won a championship and somebody that lost. There's nothing that we have to overthink."
I asked Allen if the situation required a radical adjustment or a focus on executing the things they've always done. He pondered that for a moment before saying, "It's a mix of both."
The key word of the day was "competition," at least for Heat coach Erik Spoelstra who used it 14 times during his press conference.
Example: "It starts with the competition of really getting into this competition and playing at a higher level competitively, effort‑wise, activity‑wise, loose ball‑wise, all of those things first, and then we need to do some things better in terms of our schematics and things of that nature."
Can the Heat's issues really be resolved by simply playing harder? It would be a nice start.
"I actually think the energy has been bad from the start," LeBron James said. "From quarter one, we haven't matched their intensity. Second quarter we've played some okay ball. Third quarter our energy has been the best in the third quarters where we've tried to work and work to get back."
And the adjustments? LeBron smiled broadly and spread his arms wide: "I'm not the adjustment guy to ask. That's not my question."
LeBron James loses control of the ball in Game 4. (Photo: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY)
There were hints dropped throughout about lineup changes. One may involve Udonis Haslem, their rugged forward and team leader who has been a non-factor throughout the series. Spoelstra didn't go his usual route of saying he's considering everyone when Haslem's name was mentioned.
"He's on my mind," Spoelstra said. "These are the type of games where he's proven himself, and you need somebody to rely on that's been there and has proven that those tough things, when your back is against the wall, but we'll see. We'll see what happens."
Another could involve a more sizable shakeup in the backcourt, where Mario Chalmers has struggled mightily.
"I have very good reason that everything could change," Dwyane Wade said cryptically when asked about the point guard play. "As I continue to say throughout the season, it's a game‑to‑game thing, man. It's momentum. Whatever the case you may say, it's all game to game. None of us have played well enough. We're not singling out anybody on our team. We as a team, the Miami Heat, we haven't played well enough. You know, we win together, we lose together. We've lost three games together, and we've won one collectively. So we all need to play better."
That would include Wade, who looked dreadful in Game 4 after missing 10 of 13 shots, with many of those looks coming at or near the rim. He said he went to the gym by himself on Friday just to get a feel for things. The Heat continue to downplay any suggestion that Wade might be more beat up than he's let on, and he's not the only one. Chris Andersen has also been noticeably dragging and James said that he tweaked his ankle in Game 2.
"I don't want to say a sprain," James said. "I turned it. It's a little sore, but it hasn't limited me much. As the night goes on, it gets a little worse and worse, but I'm okay."
The aging Spurs
The aging Spurs
So, to sum up: the Heat need to play harder to match San Antonio's intensity. There will probably be a few lineup adjustments to reflect their desperate situation. Wade says he's fine even though no one really buys it and LeBron revealed that his ankle is sore, but he's OK.
Given all that information to process, reporters were left with a couple of scenarios.
1. This is over. The Spurs have figured out how to beat Miami's pressure defense, and given the Heat's depleted roster there isn't a whole lot they can do about it.
2. That's a dangerous position for the Spurs. Manu Ginobili has been saying they have to play Game 5 like it's a Game 7 and none of them want to have spend the next week answering questions about losing last year.
3. If the Heat steal one on Sunday, we're all pretty resigned to the reality that we'll be back in San Antonio by Wednesday for a Game 7 three days later. Everyone's adjusting back to the 2-2-1-1-1 format, but when was the last time a team lost a series at home under this format with such a quick turnaround? Answer: 1980, when a young Magic Johnson filled in for an injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at center and the Lakers won the series in Philly.
We'll leave it to Chris Bosh to sum it all up:
"I just want to win Game 5," he said. "I'm telling you, that is the key. People can speculate and things like that, but that's not what we do. We're on the road. We have to take very small parts and goals and break them up and make sure we accomplish those. Right now we can't even discuss that. We can't even talk about that because we need to win. We'll have plenty of time to ponder. Everybody can ask their questions and some of them might even get answers. We'll see what happens."