MIAMI — Dwyane Wade stayed long after practice ended Wednesday, fine-tuning his shot for so long that he had to eventually be summoned off the court so the Miami Heat plane could leave on time.
Up 3-1 in the Eastern Conference finals, the Heat are still working.
"They're desperate," Wade said. "We're a desperate team as well. We didn't work this hard to put ourself in this position, to be up 3-1, to not be able to match their energy and effort."
Game 5 of the East title series is in Chicago on Thursday night, the Heat now having pushed the Bulls to the brink of elimination with three straight wins. The most recent of those came in overtime Tuesday, Miami prevailing 101-93 after another swarming defensive effort kept reigning MVP Derrick Rose off balance for most of the night.
A trip to the NBA FInals is for the taking, but the Heat insist there's no sense of looking ahead.
"There can't be," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
His team has clearly received that message.
LeBron James pronounced Game 5 "a must-win" for Miami in the early hours of Wednesday morning, not long after the Game 4 victory was in the books. Udonis Haslem spoke Wednesday about having a sense of desperation, shaking off any mention of a looming trip to the finals. Chris Bosh predicted that what awaits Miami in Chicago on Thursday may be as rough as anything the Heat have faced all season.
"Everything that we have, we have to throw everything and the kitchen sink at those guys because they're going to be ready," Bosh said. "Nobody ever wants to go home early. They've put in a season just like we have. As a man, they're going to have pride. As a team, they're going to have pride. And we have to have that same thing. Chicago is a tough place to play, and we have to be ready for it."
With one more win, the Heat will not only have a ticket to the finals, but another piece of NBA history as well.
In 1995, the Houston Rockets lost Game 1 (and Game 2, actually) of a best-of-seven series to the Phoenix Suns by more than 20 points and recovered to advance. Since then, 23 teams have lost Game 1s in that same situation, all of them going on to lose the series as well. The Heat fell 103-82 at Chicago in Game 1 of these East finals and haven't been beaten since.
James thinks that same edge that was brought in Games 2, 3 and 4 will be the formula to beat Chicago again.
"That's the only way we play," James said. "When we play like that, we're a great team. We're desperate. We want to win and we want to close it out on their floor. We're looking forward to the challenge. We know it's going to be tough. They've got some of the best fans in the world, so we'll see."
For their part, the Bulls insist they are far from done.
After all, they beat Miami three straight times in the regular season. Why not do it again now?
"Absolutely," Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said. "I believe everybody in this room believes that."
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