The difference now is the Heat and San Antonio are on equal footing — one foot atop the mountain, the other at the edge of a cliff. That's all the Heat wanted from this night, a series tied at three games apiece.
Don't misunderstand. There was much for Heat fans to enjoy this night. This is the night that gets them to the night they need to play if all their hopes and all their expectations are to come true.
Here is how they did it: Everywhere. With everybody. They didn't get monster offensive games from any of the Big Three. But there were important stanzas where a role player made a big play.
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Mario Chalmers, scoreless the previous three first halves, had 14 in this first half. Shane Battier had three 3-point plays, more than he had in any playoff game.
Energy was the issue with the Heat some nights. Not this night. Not before this home crowd. Not even when they were down 10 points entering the fourth quarter.
Everyone knows what the Heat has one the line. Its immediate reputation. Its future legacy. Maybe Erik Spoelstra's job. Probably Bosh's trade option. Certainly LeBron's place in the game, at least in the short term.
But look at the Spurs. Look what they'd gain in winning. A fifth title for Duncan and Popovich would move them up a notch among players and coaches, respectively.
One final celebration of the Spurs' Big Three probably would be one beyond what anyone expected. Maybe it would be their biggest because of their age and who they took down.
It all comes down to a Game 7, something the Heat have good practice with in recent years. It's how they won the Eastern Conference Finals, beating Boston last year and Indiana two weeks ago in the final game.
There is a tomorrow, after all. The sun will come up. And when it does these two teams will mix rest with getting ready for one final game with everything riding on it.
Tuesday night it had a game for the ages. Duncan's play. Allen's shot. The Heat's surviving.
Hold the applause.
Game 7 is coming.