HEAT: Lesson Learned from 2011 Finals
No NBA team has ever come back from down 3-1 in the NBA Finals.
Right now, the Miami HEAT find themselves in that very enviable position of trying to close out a best-of-seven series in their own backyard with history firmly in their corner. Last season, up 2-1 after three games against the Dallas Mavericks, history bucked Miami as the Mavs went on to win three straight games en route to the first championship in team history.
As a team, the HEAT believe that demoralizing meltdown is a key reason they find themselves in such a desirable position after four games against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Team leaders Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade – the only two HEAT players to have both won and lost in the NBA Finals for Miami – say the 2011 NBA Finals was a turning point for this current squad.
“I think when you get knocked down, you get up a little more hungry,” Haslem said. “You get up a little bit more motivated and you know what it feels like to be down and you don’t want to feel that feeling again. With that being said, we’re a year older, a year more experienced, we’ve been down a couple times. Last year, being down in this playoffs, these playoff series a couple times against different teams and we’ve been able to bounce back – just building more and more character each time.”
Following Game 4’s series-turning 104-98 victory over the Thunder, Wade followed Haslem’s lead in detailing just how much last season’s crushing Finals defeat has played in this team’s current mental make up.
“This team, we had to go through something to get to the point that we are resilient and that was going through a heartbreaking loss in The Finals last year,” Wade said.
Along with last season’s peppering at the hands of the Mavericks, Haslem believes the challenges and tribulations of this postseason have made this a stronger and well-rounded team.
“Every playoff series has been competitive,” Haslem said of Miami’s Eastern Conference journey. “The Knicks series when we won 4 to 1. Those are competitive games and the Knicks worked us. Obviously the Indiana series was a physical series, they really pushed us. The Boston series, they push you mentally, physically, very well-coached veteran guys and in this series a young athletic, very well-coached, very talented team.
“Every series has been more and more challenging.”
One of the biggest hurdles for this HEAT squad was the loss of All-Star Chris Bosh to a lower abdominal strain early on in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Indiana Pacers. The loss of Bosh, Miami’s third best player overall and the team’s best post performer, was a huge blow to the HEAT but the veteran presence of Haslem helped to negate that injury.
“When Chris was out, [I played] 25 maybe 30 minutes,” Haslem explained. “[My job is] posting up, couple double-doubles, rebounding, knocking down some shots. Now that Chris is back: minutes maybe around 15, 16, 17 minutes. [I’ve] got to bring even more energy in a smaller period of time and figure out ways to impact the game.”
Haslem says his journey specifically has molded him from an undrafted free agent to a player who has played a key role on a Miami team that has competed in three NBA Finals over the past six seasons.
“It’s been a long journey,” Haslem said. “It’s been a fun journey though. I always look back to where I came from and where I’m at now. I wouldn’t change it for the world. One thing about this journey is that it hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t been easy at all. Along the way I’ve built tremendous character. I’ve met people and friends that I’m going to consider family for life and another opportunity to be a champion. Hopefully I can take advantage of it this time.”
Teammates Wade and Haslem are the longest tenured HEAT players and are also the only two on the current roster to have already won a title with Miami in 2006. Both Haslem and Wade were signed by the HEAT as rookies and having played in three NBA Finals together is something not lost on Haslem.
“Dwyane and me talked about it the other day,” Haslem said. “Coming in as rookies, some guys never get this far and for us to be here our third time it has a little bit to do with us but obviously we’ve been fortunate enough to have great coaching, great teammates and stay healthy and just blessed to be in a great situation.”
The two players that have spent the most time in a HEAT uniform over the last 10 seasons are now on the verge of winning the second NBA Title in franchise history. History suggests that there’s little doubt another title is on the agenda and even quite possibly very soon for this Miami team playing Game 5 in South Beach.