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Sports

June 18, 2013

Heat back on familiar, and shaky, ground in Finals

(Continued)

And what will be written about this season, it’ll all be decided over the next few days.

“I have to come up big, for sure in Game 6,” James said. “But I believe we all have to play at a high level in order to keep the series going. So me being one of the leaders of this team, I do put a lot of pressure on myself to force a Game 7, and I look forward to the challenge.”

When the Heat have been in trouble the last two postseasons, it’s pretty much has meant James to the rescue.

In matchups where the Heat have been down in a series or faced elimination over the past two seasons, the game’s best player has played like the game’s best player. Overall, in those eight games — Game 4 against Indiana last season, Games 6 and 7 against Boston last season, Game 2 against the Thunder last season, Game 2 against Chicago this year, Game 7 against the Pacers this year and Games 2 and 4 against the Spurs — James’ numbers simply pop.

He’s averaged 31.1 points on 53 percent shooting, added 10.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists, and the Heat are a whopping plus-128 with him on the floor in those contests.

“LJ has proven himself enough in this league,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, “and on the biggest stage.”

The Heat aren’t down in this series with the Spurs because of James, who was a deserved scapegoat in 2011 against the Mavericks. He has more points than anyone else in this year’s NBA Finals, the second-most rebounds (two behind Tim Duncan) and the most assists (one ahead of Tony Parker).

They’re down in the series for a litany of other reasons, not necessarily related to James.

The Spurs might be the best top-to-bottom team that the Heat have faced in these three seasons of playoff runs. They have the mastermind coach in Gregg Popovich, the veteran core of Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili, and the supporting cast like Danny Green (with a Finals-record 25 3-pointers and counting) and Gary Neal (12 3-pointers in the series, second-most behind Green).

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