The Heat's success or failure in these Finals will not affect LeBron James' decision on whether to opt out of his contract by the end of this month, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
James and the Heat would be the first team in NBA Finals history to overcome a 3-1 series deficit and come back and win a title. This is the 32nd time the Finals have been 3-1 after four games.
In NBA playoff history, eight teams have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven series, most recently the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 2006 Western Conference playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers.
James scored 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting Thursday night, but the Heat got just 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting from Dwyane Wade, 12 points from Chris Bosh and little else from their bench outside of James Jones' 11 points as the Spurs manhandled them 107-86 in a game that wasn't close after the second quarter.
After the game, James was remarkably upbeat, saying he didn't have time to dwell on what coach Erik Spoelstra called "the biggest surprise of the series" because his two boys came into the locker room and took his mind off it.
"Soul searching, there won't be much of that," James said in his postgame news conference. "We're a veteran ballclub that's won a championship, that's won a couple of championships, that's been to four straight Finals. We know what it takes to win. We've just got to go out and do it."
Although James has been the Heat's most consistent player in this series -- averaging 27.5 points in the four games -- he often becomes the focus of criticism when they lose. It's a reality he has come to accept, not just live with. But for the Heat to come back in this series, James made a point of saying he could not carry the Heat alone.
"It's not all on my shoulders," James said. "It's not. I understand I get a lot of the limelight in the press and all that, but it's not all on my shoulders. I take a lot of it, but I do it for my teammates, and I want them to put a lot of pressure on me in that sense."
James, Wade and Bosh can all opt out of their contracts and become free agents after this season. ESPN's Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst reported Wednesday that discussions have begun within the organization about creating sufficient financial flexibility to make an ambitious run at adding New York Knicks scoring machine Carmelo Anthony this summer in free agency.
When those decisions become reality now depends on how much longer the Heat can prolong their season.
"The series is not over," James said. "We've got guys with too much pride [to] even start thinking about that."
Wade said the Spurs have simply outplayed the Heat thus far in this series, but he thought that could change by the end of the series.
"They whipped our butt here at home," Wade said. "You've got to give them credit for coming out, getting to their game plan, their game for 48 minutes, and we haven't been able to do that."
James was seen leaving the court for the locker room twice during the first half. Spoelstra said neither trip was due to injury.
"LeBron first time went to the bathroom, second time to get his ankle retaped," Spoelstra said.
James played nearly 38 minutes in the lopsided loss. Bosh played more than 38 minutes, and Wade played 33. The Spurs' big three were able to rest a bit more but not significantly.
Tim Duncan played 30 minutes, Tony Parker played 35 minutes and Manu Ginobili played 28. Kawhi Leonard played a game-high 39 minutes.
"It's not fatigue," Spoelstra said. "Both teams are playing the same minutes, same time of year. We just have to figure it out. San Antonio is playing great. They're exploiting where we're normally good, so we have to do a better job. We have 48 hours."
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