MIAMI – It took longer than expected, but the Miami Heat have earned a third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. The Big Three, along with coach Erik Spoelstra, came through in their biggest game of the year.
Now, the real work begins. Now, this Miami foursome begins the job of working on their legacy.
LeBron James. Dwyane Wade. Chris Bosh. Erik Spoelstra. These are the men who shape the Heat, who determine the team’s fate. And these are the men tasked with getting the defending champion Heat back-to-back titles in their Finals matchup against San Antonio.
On Monday, the Heat, which has had to clear a series of hurdles – one higher than the next – since being put together in 2010, passed yet another nerve-wracking test with their dominant 99-76 victory over Indiana in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
However, if you want to be considered among the league’s great teams, you have to win multiple titles. In the salary cap era, which basically began in the mid-1980s, three titles qualifies you as a dynasty.
San Antonio has four, having won in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007. The Spurs are an official dynasty. Their Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, guided by coach Gregg Popovich, is what the Heat wants to be when they grow up.
Miami, which makes its third consecutive Finals appearance when it hosts San Antonio on Thursday, could be on its way to achieving dynasty status.
But they have to win this title.
Their last impression was pretty good.
Wade, who will never again be doubted in this column, was spectacular in Monday’s Game 7 en route 21 points and nine rebounds. Both were his best totals of the series. For a guy who appeared to (again) be damned by health problems, this time a bone bruise in his right knee, this was a nice answer for the doubters.
“I just felt better physically,” Wade said, providing the short answer to why he came through in Game 7 but not in Games 1-6.
Bosh, the favorite scapegoat of the national media, wasn’t as productive as Wade, but he still had nine points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Of course, it was on a putrid 3-for-13 shooting performance but no one is keeping tabs too closely.