DALLAS — By now you have seen the statistic regarding the significance of Game 3 of The Finals with a series tied at 1-1.
In the 11 times since the NBA has gone to the 2-3-2 format for The Finals, the team that has won Game 3 has gone on to win the series all 11 times.
In a series where every possession has to be treated like the last, that makes tonight’s crucial Game 3 a nuclear pressure cooker for both the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat.
But for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Co. the stakes are even higher.
Think about it for a second. For a team that mandated championships or bust for the entire existence, these next 48 minutes basically define their season.
James said it best Saturday while discussing the Heat’s celebratory practices from Game 2 when said, “I just think everything gets blown out of proportion when the Miami Heat does things.”
Well, you can put tonight’s game high on that list, sir!
Because the Heat is certainly on for the team with the biggest stars, sorry Dirk Nowitzki, and the team with the biggest profile and the biggest stake in the outcome of whatever transpires in this series. And anyone screaming that it’s unfair for the Heat to shoulder more of that load than the Mavericks need only remember that this pressure is self-induced by the crew from South Beach. We’re playing by their rules and the standards they have set for themselves.
To their credit, both James and Wade have been marvelous in these situations before, as Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com’s Heat Index points out here:
Wade is playing in his 16th career playoff series and is tied at 1-1 for the sixth time. In those other instances, Wade has regularly delivered huge performances in those crucial Game 3s. In fact, the Heat are 5-0 with Wade in Game 3s in a tied series, including 1-0 this season when the Heat took command of the Eastern Conference finals with a Game 3 win over Chicago. Wade’s averaged 29.4 points on 52 percent shooting in those situations.
James is playing in his 17th career playoff series and is tied at 1-1 for the fifth time. In those other instances, James has delivered huge performances in those crucial Game 3s. The Cleveland Cavaliers were 3-1 in those Game 3s. James averaged 35.5 points on 47 percent shooting in those situations.
Obviously, that history alone won’t carry the Heat in this Game 3.
None of those superlative performances previously recorded came in a cauldron like the one they’ll face tonight. This is The Finals, where every bit of minutiae of every single moment is analyzed over and over again.
A Game 3 win on the road and the Heat’s late-game failings from Game 2 could be easily dismissed as a momentary lack of poise by a superior team still on a championship track.
A Game 3 loss on the road and that same Heat team faces a 2-1 deficit with two more games here in Dallas, where the heat is literally on with temperatures hovering near the triple digits all week, and the prospect of their championship dreams fading in the north Texas sun.
Once again, for tonight’s Game 3 at American Airlines Center, the Heat is most definitely on!