The Heat had largely cruised through these playoffs unscathed before Saturday night’s Game 3 loss to the Nets, winning all six contests before that and being rarely challenged to this point of the postseason.
But after falling under a barrage of three-point bombs and looking largely uninspired throughout much of the second half, LeBron James and his teammates may finally be feeling as though the postseason has arrived.
“It has felt like the playoffs and it hasn’t,” Chris Bosh said of the past few weeks. “We didn’t have that desperation in this game, but usually, a loss will do that and you’ll come back with it.” …
“This is a series now,” James said. “I’ve been part of a lot of series. I understand it’s never won in two games.”
This is the first bit of adversity Miami has faced in the team’s bid to get back to a fourth straight Finals, and a let down at some point was to be expected, especially against a veteran-loaded team like the Nets that, perhaps more than any other, isn’t likely to be intimidated by the Heat’s championship resume.
Game 4 means everything for Brooklyn, just as Game 3 did before it. Going down 3-1 would put the Nets in an essentially impossible situation, and it will be no easy task surviving what’s sure to be a bounce-back effort from the Heat in the next one.
There’s an old playoff saying, however, that states that a series doesn’t truly begin until one team wins on the other’s home floor, either stealing or solidifying the home-court advantage. A Nets win that would tie the series at 2-2 wouldn’t upset that balance, even though reducing this round to a best-of-three would certainly intensify the feeling from James that his team has finally begun to experience a challenge.