Entering Game 3 of the NBA Finals the Miami Heat will be in a familiar place with a better view.
Up 2-1 at home with a chance to put the Thunder in a headlock that they’ll unlikely be able to get out of. Most people will tell you that the Heat’s Finals experience gives them a distinct advantage over their younger opponents. I disagree.
Here’s the thing about experience: It doesn’t mean anything if you lose.
There have been many teams that had the advantage of experience that lost big games. In sports, the most notorious example would be Jim Kelly’s Buffalo Bills, the team that lost four consecutive Super Bowls. That, however, is the NFL and not a completely fair comparison.
In the NBA, you can point to Jerry West’s Lakers, Dr. J’s Sixers and Clyde Drexler’s Blazers as proof that experience is something that must be taken in context. It’s nice to have, but not necessary to win.
If they’re going to win the championship, the Heat needs to focus, and capitalize, on what they have: An opportunity.
Winning Game 4 would give the Heat a 3-1 lead and three possibilities to close the Thunder out and win the title. That’s something that can be felt, measure and relied on more so than the idea of experience giving a team a distinct advantage or, in the Thunder’s case a disadvantage.
The Heat have acknowledged the experience idea and seem to be focused on what is happening now. They’re not on the road, they’re not playing Dallas and most importantly they’re not really the same team. The so-called experience helps, but they know that have to go out and capitalize on the opportunity they have.
“We're a totally different team than we was last year when we was up 2 1,” LeBron James said. “We're a totally different team. We understand what it takes to win, and we've used that motivation, and we will continue to use that motivation.”
“But last year is last year, and we're not going into a Game 4 on someone else's floor. We're going into a Game 4 on our floor with a lot of experience in this type of situation. We'll be ready. We love the challenge."
The Heat, James especially, have enough to deal with playing against the capable Thunder. Over-thinking last season’s disappointment only adds more pressure to a situation that’s already pressure-filled. That’s what relying on experience, in the Heat’s case, will do. It will take them back to the moments where they didn't get the job done. Ultimately that can lead to a sting of doubts that will lead to second-guessing that doesn’t help anyone do anything.
They simply need to play and focus on being the better team. You don’t need multiple trips to the Finals to understand the importance of the game. The Heat needs to focus on Game 4 as its own entity and let the chips fall where they may.
Looking back too much could actually work to the Thunder’s favor and the Heat don’t need or want that; the Thunder are capable of beating them without any extra help.