MIAMI — LeBron James has been here before, with dire results.
It was two years ago, the end of the first season of "Big Three" basketball in Miami. The situation: Heat down 3-2, hosting Game 6 of the NBA Finals, two home wins separating it from what would have been James' first title.
Then, thud. James had six turnovers in Game 6, the Heat was outscored by 24 with him on the floor and the Mavericks became NBA champions.
Here comes the same situation. Down 3-2 again and back at home for Game 6 of the finals against the Spurs tonight, Miami needs two wins in three days or else it will be watching someone else end this season with a party on its own floor.
"We're going to see if we're a better team than we were our first year together," James said.
We're also about to see how much James has grown since that 2011 season.
He has more at stake than any other Heat player in this series, especially now that the Spurs are one game away from grabbing the championship. If the Heat loses, it'll be widely perceived as James' failure. If the Heat wins, his status as the game's best player not only becomes even more cemented but he might even win over a few more doubters.
"Our next challenge, biggest challenge, will be" tonight, James said. "We have an opportunity on our home floor with our home fans to keep the series going, and we look forward to it."
Getting swept in the finals by San Antonio in 2007; that one was written off as James just not having enough talent around him in Cleveland. Losing to Dallas in 2011, a year after he, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh came together in such ballyhooed fashion in Miami, was an absolute nightmare for James. Winning it all by topping the Thunder last season; that was his long-awaited ascension.
And what will be written about this season, it'll all be decided over the next few days.
"I have to come up big, for sure in Game 6," James said. "But I believe we all have to play at a high level in order to keep the series going. So me being one of the leaders of this team, I do put a lot of pressure on myself to force a Game 7, and I look forward to the challenge."
When the Heat has been in trouble the past two postseasons, it has pretty much been James to the rescue. In eight games in which Miami has been down in a series or faced elimination, he has averaged 31.1 points on 53 percent shooting, 10.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists, and the Heat is plus-128 with him on the floor.
AROUND THE LEAGUE: The Celtics and Clippers have relaunched talks on a multiplayer trade that would send Boston coach Doc Rivers and forward Kevin Garnett to Los Angeles, espn.com reported. … The Nuggets announced Tim Connelly will take over as general manager for Masai Ujiri, who left to become GM of the Raptors. … The Bucks announced Bob Bender and Nick Van Exel will be assistants to new coach Larry Drew. Both worked with Drew in Atlanta. … Former All-Star guard Allen Iverson is being accused by his ex-wife, Tawanna Iverson, of abducting his children, according to several media reports. Tawanna Iverson claimed her ex-husband failed to return their five children, ages 3-16, after a five-day vacation to Charlotte, N.C.… Owners of EnergySolutions Arena are upgrading the Jazz's home with a $15 million scoreboard system.
Spurs 3, Heat 2
TV: Ch. 28
Game 1: Spurs 92, Heat 88
Game 2: Heat 103, Spurs 84
Game 3: Spurs 113, Heat 77
Game 4: Heat 109, Spurs 93
Game 5: Spurs 114, Heat 104
Tonight: at Miami, 9
Thursday: at Miami, 9*
* If necessary