LeBron James came to Miami last summer for the chance to be a champion.
He arrived back there yesterday just hoping to be a survivor.
The Dallas Mavericks have a 3-2 lead in the NBA Finals and can win their first championship tomorrow night. Less than a year after the Heat's free agent victory celebration, the real party might belong to Dirk Nowitzki.
But the Heat, despite consecutive losses that have renewed criticism of their execution and James' ability in the clutch, insist they can still win the first of the multiple titles James boasted of upon his arrival in South Florida.
"I guess [Dallas has] momentum in the sense they came home and won two games. But each game is its own," Dwyane Wade said Thursday night. "Every game has been pretty much a possession here, a possession there. Either team can come in and say they can be up different than what they are. We'll be coming to the game understanding it's a possession game in Game 6, doing whatever it takes to win the ballgame. So we're confident."
So are the Mavericks, who get two chances to close out the Heat, but stress the importance of doing it on the first try.
"Game 6 is Game 7 for us," guard Jason Terry said. "We want to play like there's no tomorrow. If we do that, I have no doubt in my mind we can be successful. We must come out aggressively."
James rebounded from his eight-point Game 4 flop by delivering a triple-double in Game 5. But it came with only two points in the fourth quarter. He has totaled just 11 points in that period.
"We've just got to push through it. At this point we have no choice, honestly," James said. "We've got two games left, and we worked hard all year to get home-court advantage. We have to take advantage of it."
* The preliminary television rating for Game 5 of the NBA Finals was up 25 percent from the last time the same teams met in the championship series. Dallas' 112-103 win over Miami on Thursday on ABC drew a 12.6 overnight rating; Game 5 in 2006 earned a 10.1.