MIAMI (AP) – Dwyane Wade’s first three trips to the NBA Finals all were accompanied by a statistical oddity. The Game 1 winner in each of those series wound up watching the other team celebrate a championship.
He’s hoping form holds again.
Somehow, the Miami Heat seem to regularly disprove the notion that Game 1 winners almost always end up prevailing in a best-of-seven matchup, an axiom that probably comes out after the initial contest in every playoff series.
Since Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined up their team has lost Game 1’s now on four occasions – the most recent being Thursday’s 92-88 loss to San Antonio to open the NBA Finals. And in the first three instances of them facing an 0-1 deficit, not only did they win every time, but they never as much as lost another game in each of those series.
“That history-repeats-itself-hopefully thing, that would be great,” Wade said. “But right now we have to figure out how to make the adjustments to win Game 2. We’re playing against a very, very good team. Very intelligent, smart team. And we have to break the code. We have to crack the code and figure out how to be more effective, you know, in Game 2 than we were in Game 1.”
Trying to continue that trend won’t be easy.
The last time the Spurs won Game 1 of any playoff matchup on the road and failed to prevail in that series was 1978. And when the Spurs win Game 1 anywhere, home or road, they’ve won 27 of their most recent 31 series.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich isn’t a big believer in those sorts of trends actually mattering.
“I think each game is an entity until itself,” Popovich said. “It unfolds differently, and I actually spend zero time wondering about how the next game is going to go, because I really have no idea. ... It unfolds as it goes. I don’t take much from game to game. It’s about what you do in trying to execute that and trying to pick up things on the other team’s weaknesses or strengths as you go. But from game to game, it’s a new deal.”
The Heat would probably agree with that.
That is, until they find out where an opponent is weakest and determine a way to use that information.
“We bounce back,” Heat forward Udonis Haslem said. “This team has great resolve, veteran guys with a lot of pride and we bounce back. Take nothing away from San Antonio. We won Game 1. But we had opportunities.”
And the Spurs fully expect the Heat to have a bounceback effort in Game 2 of the series on Sunday night.
“We got a little bit lucky in Game 1,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said. “Sometimes that’s what it takes in games. The details, a couple of possessions. So we just have to stay focused. We know we have a long, long way to go. We know they’re going to come back strong in Game 2.”
History says Parker will probably be proved correct.
Against Dallas in the 2006 finals, the Heat lost the first two games and were written off as an “unworthy opponent.” They won the series in six games, with Wade turning in a virtuoso Finals MVP performance.
And in Miami’s “Big Three” era, being down a game has been no big deal.
They trailed Chicago 1-0 in the 2011 East finals and won 4-1.
They trailed Oklahoma City 1-0 in last year’s NBA Finals and won 4-1.
They trailed the Bulls again in this year’s second round and won 4-1. The rule even applies when facing other deficits, like when they were down 2-1 to Indiana last year before winning in six games, and when they trailed the Boston Celtics 3-2 in last year’s East finals before winning in seven.
That’s a combined record of 17-0 in those series after falling behind.
“You have to have tough character,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Our guys want to win and they are competitive, Type-A personalities. It’s not as if we need motivation and we didn’t come in inspired. No, it wouldn’t give the Spurs the credit they deserved. ... But to be able to bounce back from certain situations, you have to have a toughness, you have to have a collective character. We’ve also been through enough pain collectively that that can be motivating.”
That pain came in the 2011 finals against Dallas, when the Heat led the series 1-0 and 2-1 before falling in six games.
Obviously, the Heat would give anything not to experience that feeling again.
“It’s definitely not going to be easy versus this team we’re going against now,” James said. “But we’ve been able to get better. We’ve been able to make adjustments going from one game to the next. We kind of just bounce back after a loss. No matter if it’s on the road or at home, we’ve been able to bounce back.”