Just when we thought things couldn't get any worse for the Heat, they did. San Antonio followed up its dominating Game 3 win with an even better performance in Game 4, sending the two-time defending champions to the brink of elimination.
5 things to know
The Spurs are seeking vengeance
The Spurs are ridiculous. For so much made of the Pacers' loud mission to improve and exact revenge on the Heat this season, most of us ignored that San Antonio whipped out 62 wins with vengeance on its mind, too. Here in the Finals, where S.A. took a commanding 3-1 lead on Thursday, the Spurs have dominated with precision, creativity and something like fully controlled chaos.
That's the thing with the Spurs, who seem on the brink of a turnover every time Boris Diaw or Tiago Splitter delivers a touch pass and every time Kawhi Leonard or Danny Green take a dribble. The precision and creativity aren't quite enough on their own, so the Spurs add an element of total unpredictability. The Heat defense simply can't keep up. No defense can! It's bad enough that San Antonio has 10 quality players to rotate in and out. But then the offensive system goes and adds a dose of magic to make things even wilder.
The legacy talk will almost immediately crop up again, not just for LeBron James, but also for all of the Spurs' stars, those in uniforms and in suits. But let's appreciate the here-and-now accomplishment of these Spurs, who lost a championship bid in heartbreaking fashion and appear on their way to the most beautiful revenge imaginable. It's a Kurosawa on the hardwood. Bask in its magnificence. -Tom Ziller
The unlikely Spurs MVP
The whole point of the Spurs is that nobody and everybody is their best player at the same time. Plenty of heroes emerged in Game 4: Kawhi Leonard's all-around brilliance, Tony Parker's shot-making, Danny Green's pterodactyl arms and Tim Duncan's understated work, most notably.
But we need to reserve a special place at the table for Boris Diaw. What Boris Diaw is doing is nuts.
This was a man that was deemed too out of shape for one of the worst teams in NBA history three seasons ago. Folks knew that Diaw was capable of success, but when the Bobcats let him go after his weight became a big issue, many felt his time as a top-flight player were over.
Instead, he's found the fountain of youth after being injected with Spurs blood. He's now their version of peak Lamar Odom: a hybrid forward that plays like a guard and affects a game in ways most men their size would only dream. Gregg Popovich finally started him in Game 3 and the Spurs haven't looked back. His playmaking is essential to keeping the machine churning and has yielded several highlights, but his ability to take Miami's smaller wings into the post has been even more essential. Andohbytheway, his defense is excellent too.
It's Diaw that best encapsulates San Antonio's success. They can take players with strong basketball IQs and mold them into the best contributors they can be. Would it be so weird for Diaw to win Finals MVP? Did I really just write that sentence with a straight face? -Mike Prada
All by himself
LeBron James needed to do it all on Thursday night, quite literally. As the Heat were faced with losing their second straight game on their home floor, James needed one of his Big 3 teammates to step up to the plate and join him. They didn't.
Neither Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade had much to contribute on either end of the floor. Bosh shot a middling 5-of-11 from the field, grabbing just four rebounds as the Spurs outrebounded Miami by 17.
Wade, meanwhile, looked like a shell of his former self. Praise rained on him in the three playoff series prior, when it looked like the regenerative effects of playing him just 54 games in the regular season were paying off. But against the Spurs on Thursday night, his age and 26,000+ minutes played caught up with him all at once. Wade shot just 3-of-13 from the field, scoring 10 points while breaking down on the defensive side of the ball.
Miami formed the Big 3 in 2010, but it's turned into a Big 1. James needs some help, and fast, or Miami could witness the city of San Antonio celebrating yet another championship under Gregg Popovich. -Dane Carbaugh
Gone in a Flash
So much for Dwyane Wade's "restoration plan." The Heat rested Wade for 28 games during the regular season in the hope that he would be fresh for the playoffs. Teammates occasionally grumbled and Miami often played uninspired in the regular season, but it'd be worth it in June, the Heat hoped.
But that idea burned to the ground in dramatic fashion in Game 4. Wade wore his 32 years like a pair of the heaviest ankle weights you've ever seen on Thursday. He couldn't shake Boris Diaw in half-court situations. He couldn't play above the rim. He went 1-for-8 in the paint and each missed layup was more cringeworthy than one before it. It was a car crash you slow down to look at and then feel bad about it.
Wade finished the night 3-for-13, and the performance felt as bad as the numbers would indicate. As the bricks kept mounting, it was hard to ignore a report one day earlier that suggested Miami would target Carmelo Anthony in the offseason. If Wade is playing like this, LeBron really might not have enough help around him. -Ricky O'Donnell
Our last bastion of privacy is our ability to poop without people knowing about it. People can track our internet searches and where we go with our cell phones, but unless we explicitly tell somebody we're taking a poop -- which we generally avoid with a "hey, I'm going to the bathroom" -- nobody knows you're pooping. (Unless they're listening to our poop noises or tracking how long we've been in the bathroom.)
Unless we're LeBron James. Even most basketball players poop in anonymity during games: most players have tons of bench time, which can be used for surreptitious pooping, and even starters can use their time for pooping purposes without worrying about the world peering in.
But when LeBron takes a poop during Game 4 of the NBA Finals, it's a news story. Cameras follow him down to the training room. Doris Burke tells us he's feeling uncomfortable while the camera shows him grimacing in slow motion. The internet makes poop-related memes.
He played decently enough despite this while his teammates disappeared, but somewhere out there, there's somebody blaming the Heat losing on LeBron needing to take a poop. That's a mantle no athlete should bear. -Rodger Sherman
NBA Finals schedule
Game 1: Spurs 110, Heat 95
James (25 pts), Bosh (19 pts, 9 rebs)Duncan (21 pts), Ginobili (16 pts, 11 ast)
Game 2: Heat 98, Spurs 96
James (35 pts, 10 rebs), Bosh (18 pts)Parker (21 pts), Duncan (18 pts, 15 rebs)
Game 3: Spurs 111, Heat 92
Spurs shot 76% in first half
Leonard (29 pts), Wade (22 pts)
Game 4: Spurs 107, Heat 86
Spurs shot 58% in game
Leonard (20 pts, 14 rebs), James (28 pts)
Game 5 on Sunday, June 15 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CTABC AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
Game 6 on Tuesday, June 17* 9 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. CTABC American Airlines Arena, Miami, Fla.
Game 7 on Friday, June 20* 9 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. CTABC AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas