SAN ANTONIO -- Tim Duncan isn't particularly known for being a man of many words.
Apparently, that's just the San Antonio Spurs way. But the statements made by arguably the greatest power forward in NBA history during the Spurs' second straight trip to the Finals are proving to be profound and prophetic.
Two weeks ago, after putting away the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference finals, Duncan created a bit of a media stir in a postgame interview when he said the Spurs have targeted the Miami Heat for 12 months since losing in last year's NBA Finals and would get the job done this time.
Now, with the Spurs holding a 3-1 series lead over the two-time defending champions heading into a closeout opportunity in Game 5 Sunday in San Antonio, Duncan insisted he and his teammates would take a moment to remember what it felt like the last time they were in this situation.
No team knows just how fleeting prosperity can be against the Heat than these Spurs.
This time a year ago, Duncan's team was 28 seconds away from winning its fifth NBA title when everything unraveled in Game 6 in Miami. Duncan hardly needed to be reminded of the details. But just as the gold ropes were being stretched around the court in preparation for a postgame trophy presentation, Miami's Ray Allen hit a 3-pointer to send it to overtime. The Heat rallied for the win to tie the series and then won Game 7 in a contest that saw the Spurs squander more opportunities.
That meltdown has motivated the Spurs to the point that their seek-and-destroy mission against Miami this time around has battered the Heat onto the brink of elimination. And with two full days off between San Antonio's second consecutive annihilation of the Heat in Game 4 and the potential series clincher on Sunday, at least one strategy session will include a discussion of the painful past of last June.
"It will definitely come up," Duncan said of last year's Game 6. "We know the caliber team they are. We have a lot of respect for what they're able to do. They're able to throw it into another gear, and they're going to do just that. They don't want this to be [over] ... and we don't want to give them any life."
The Spurs have executed so flawlessly -- and mercilessly -- that the Heat barely maintain a pulse at this point in the series. In crushing Miami at AmericanAirlines Arena by a combined 40 points the past two games, the Spurs handed the Heat consecutive playoff losses for the first time in 48 games. Miami faces its first two-game postseason deficit since a series-clinching Game 6 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 Finals.
LeBron James has battled everything from cramps to a sore ankle and has been plagued by wildly inconsistent stretches at the start of recent games. Dwyane Wade has been turnover-prone, out of step defensively and has largely regressed from those promising performances against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals. Chris Bosh has been consumed by his lack of touches and role on offense while collecting seven rebounds and zero blocks amid a disappearing act on defense the past two games.