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Sports

June 18, 2013

Heat back on familiar, and shaky, ground in Finals

MIAMI — LeBron James has been here before, with dire results.

It was two years ago, the end of the first season of “Big Three” basketball in Miami. The situation: Heat down 3-2, hosting Game 6 of the NBA Finals, only two home wins separating them from what would have been James’ first title.

Then, thud.

James had six turnovers in Game 6, the Heat were outscored by 24 with him on the floor, and the Dallas Mavericks became NBA champions. And now, here comes a chance to face the same situation. Down 3-2 again, and back at home for Game 6 of the finals against the San Antonio Spurs tomorrow night, Miami needs two wins in three days or else it will be watching someone else end this season with a party on its own floor.

“We’re going to see if we’re a better team than we were our first year together,” James said.

We’re also about to see is how much James has grown since that 2011 season.

He has more at stake than any other Heat player in this series, especially now that the Spurs are one game away from grabbing the championship. If the Heat lose, it’ll be widely perceived as James’ failure. If the Heat win, his status as the game’s best player not only becomes even more cemented, but he might even win over a few more doubters.

“Our next challenge, biggest challenge, will be Tuesday night,” James said. “We have an opportunity on our home floor with our home fans to keep the series going, and we look forward to it.”

Getting swept in the finals by San Antonio in 2007, that one was written off as James just not having enough talent around him. Losing to Dallas in 2011, a year after he, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh came together in such ballyhooed fashion in Miami, was an absolute nightmare for James. Winning it all by topping Oklahoma City last season, that was his long-awaited ascension.

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