At this point a year ago, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were using words like desperation and urgency.
And thats exactly what the Miami Heat expect the Oklahoma City Thunder to bring into Game 3 of this years NBA finals.
So far, this championship series has followed the same script as a year ago, with the home team winning the opening matchup, then falling in Game 2 to lose the home-court edge. Miami took the sting of that into Dallas last year and used it as fuel to win Game 3; the Heat will look to ensure that trend doesnt repeat itself when this years title script resumes on their home floor tonight.
Youve got the two best teams in the league right now going against each other, Wade said Saturday, when practices resumed after a day off for both clubs. So its going to be a very tough game, but we have to find a way to win it. And its about taking, like I said, one possession at a time, one second, one minute at a time to make sure we reach our goal and thats to win the game.
A Game 3 victory assures nothing, a lesson the Heat learned the hard way last year. That win in Dallas was Miamis final victory of the season.
But there are certain truths that will come from tonights outcome. The winner will have home-court advantage. The winner will be two games away from a championship.
We have no other choice, said Thunder star Kevin Durant, the leagues scoring champion. We lost at home. Tough loss. Weve got to get over it, get ready for a tough Game 3. You know, the series is going to be tough. We know that. We know that. Youve just got to be ready. Its going to be a fun one.
By now, the Heat arent shy to say theyre completely exhausted about dissecting what went wrong in last years finals. Still, they know the importance of not letting one loss turn into another because when that happened against the Mavericks a year ago, there was a parade in Dallas not long afterward.
I dont know if we were any more motivated in Game 2, Erik Spoelstra said. What we were was angry about our performance in Game 1. ... You want to throw your best punches out there, and may the best team win. We didnt throw our best punches in Game 1.
And if the young Thunder were supposed to be rattled by losing the home-court edge, no one told them.
We have all the right pieces, from the best scorer in the league, most athletic point guard in the league to the best shot blocker to the best post defender, best wing defender, and our bench is one of the best, James Harden said. This is a perfect team. We are young guns. We get it done. It has to start in Game 3.
Even their young-looking coach doesnt sound worried about the stakes the Thunder will face.
Ive seen all year long a group thats always committed, that always sticks by one another, that believes in the work that we put in, Scott Brooks said. And thats who they are. Its not going to change. Theyve always had great ability to bounce back after a tough loss, and we expect the guys to come back (tonight) with better effort, better play and for 48 minutes.
The Heat expect the same.
Its no secret that falling short last year has been a source of inspiration throughout this season for James and the Heat, and that continues even now.
And for James, one trend from last year is gone. In Game 2, he did what he was criticized for not doing against the Mavs: He closed the game.
Im enjoying it, James said. Im having fun with these first two games. I mean, this is a great opportunity for myself and for our team, for both teams. Its a lot of fun being out there and competing at a high level, you know, the intense moment where every possession counts. Thats what its all about. As a competitor you have to enjoy these moments, and you love these moments.