Heat venture into uncharted territory

Not now, not against perhaps the best Spurs team in history. And no, that is not a throwaway sentence. In case you had forgotten, the Spurs had the best record in the most competitive Western Conference race in memory and they survived that bracket looking better each round.

In this series, the Heat have gone to their trusty whip and have eaten only more dirt. The Spurs haven't just been beating the Heat, they've humbled them -- with their game plans, their depth and their merciless execution.

"They just -- they just, they just played great," stammered Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "I can honestly say I don't think any of us were expecting this type of performance."

The "performance" he's talking about was from the Spurs.

In Game 3, the Heat cut a 25-point lead to seven points and it was labeled a comeback attempt. In Game 4, players talked about how they cut a 25-point lead down to 13 in the second half but "couldn't get over the hump." Here's the hump: The biggest halftime lead the Spurs have blown this season is seven points.

The Heat got booed by their own fans and Spoelstra was so desperate with his point guard situation that he rolled out Toney Douglas, who has played about five meaningful minutes all season. The emerging storyline is that the Heat are exhausted after playing so many minutes over the past four seasons or that Wade's knee must be acting up because he couldn't get a shot off in the paint.

It seems rather unlikely that the workload of the past four years or the past four weeks would hit the Heat like a sledgehammer in the middle of this series. No, the Heat have led for only a handful of minutes in the four games. Their entire defense is aimed at pressuring the ball but it's impossible for them to do so if the ball stays in one place for only one second at a time.

Kawhi Leonard, far and away the youngest and most energetic player in the series, is cementing his forthcoming maximum contract on his way to a series MVP. Boris Diaw and Tony Parker are playing as though it's the European Championships and they're the best duo on the continent. Every play Gregg Popovich draws up in the huddles works, which is killing Heat rallies.

The better team is winning and the championship flotilla is being planned for the Riverwalk sometime next week.

This is a monster the Heat have not seen before. There's no one specific to blame. There's no "lackluster defense," though they haven't been great. It's not a matter of effort. It's not the coach's decisions, though Spoelstra surely will be implementing some changes that could start with the benching of Mario Chalmers.

The Spurs have simply been better. Instinct tells the Heat they shouldn't give up, that they'll come back because they always have before.

This, finally, isn't before. They've haven't just met their match after four years, they've met a wall.

"Our group has been through everything you possibly can be through except for this circumstance," Spoelstra said. "So why not? Why not test ourselves right now collectively?"

It's more than a test, it's a humbling new experience.

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