Miami HEAT Down, Not Out of NBA Finals
The Miami HEAT are one of the more enigmatic teams in the NBA. Most of the time they look like the most dominant force in the league, but then there are stretches where they look like they would have a hard time beating some high school teams. That’s exactly how they have been in the 2013 NBA Finals, where they blew out the San Antonio Spurs in Game 2, only to suffer an even worse blowout at the hands of the Spurs in Game 3.
How much does the margin of victory matter in the grand scheme of things? According to Miami forward Shane Battier, who has seen a little bit of everything in his basketball career, the final score doesn’t carry a lot of significance.
“Not in the playoffs,” Battier tells HOOPSWORLD. “Otherwise the nature of a loss like that might be concerning. Obviously, we were not sharp on the defensive end and they really had a great shooting night, but we’ll be ready for Game 4.”
Once again, the biggest talking point after Game 3 was the apparent disengagement of MVP LeBron James. Not to take anything away from the Spurs, who are defending him well straight-up and looking to clog his passing lanes, but James has looked downright uninterested (or, perhaps, intimidated) at times in this series. Much has been made of LeBron’s trust in his teammates, and despite his apparent struggles, that trust goes both ways.
“We know he’ll bounce back,” said Battier. “We’re not worried about the best player in the world. He’s our guy and he will lead us and we will follow his lead.”
So far, the Spurs’ recipe for success has been their team play, with no one player really being the focal point. Danny Green and Gary Neal were the unlikely heroes of Game 3, scoring 27 and 24 points respectively. In the Spurs’ Game 1 win, it was the more expected Tony Parker and Tim Duncan leading the way with 21 and 20 points, respectively.
“They’re dangerous when the ball gets whipping around the perimeter and they get great ball movement,” Battier explained. “We did a real great job of flattening them out in Game 2 and when you do that they don’t get the looks that they normally get. We have to find a way to flatten them out and limit their ball movement.”
There can be a tendency for a team to lose a little bit of their edge after winning a championship. Battier doesn’t believe that is an issue for his team or for LeBron.
“No, we’re here and this is why we came here is to win championships, we’re not thinking about what happened last year,” says Battier. “We’re here, we know we have to play well and be ready against a great team and that’s our only focus.”
As it has been all season, the key to Miami’s return in this series will be unselfish play, and it will take more than just LeBron stepping up for them to avoid a 1-3 hole as Game 4 gets underway tonight.
“Yeah, we’re a good group and we have a great locker room,” explains Battier. “We’re here for each other’s success. It’s been a year that has been really successful up to this point. The ride has been enjoyable because of the individuals on this team, but also because we play together as a team.”
Battier has been open in saying that after next year, the final year on his contract, he will most likely retire from the NBA. As for what’s next, however, that’s still very open-ended.
“The only thing I’m sure of is that I’m not going to coach,” said Battier, laughing in reference to Jason Kidd’s being hired as the Brooklyn Nets head coach just days after announcing his retirement from the New York Knicks. “I’ll be done in a year, after my contract, we’ll reassess where I am at that point. The will to play is still strong, but the will to prepare to play gets weaker as you get older and that will be a big returning factor. That’s a long ways away. When I walk away from this game, I want to take some time with my family and I’ll have some options. I don’t know where those options will lead.”
For now, Battier is hoping to add at least one more championship ring to his collection before he has to ponder the next phase of his professional life. Game 4 of the 2013 NBA Finals gets underway tonight at 9:00 PM Eastern on ABC.