The Heat’s Shane Battier is quite qualified to speak about sweeps.
“I’ve been on teams that have been swept three years in a row,” Battier said of his Memphis days. “And it was always Game 3.”
That’s the one that he felt his Grizzlies had to win at home. In 2004, they lost Game 3 to the Spurs by two. In 2005, they lost Game 3 to the Suns by 20. In 2006, they lost Game 3 to the Mavericks in overtime.
“And, you lose that Game 3 and all of a sudden, it’s called ‘the Plane Game,’ ” Battier said before Miami’s first-round series against Milwaukee, which Miami leads 3-0. “Do I want to play hard enough to get back on that plane. And in Memphis, the answer was no, three straight years.”
On Sunday, what will Milwaukee’s answer be?
And more importantly, can the Heat answer one of the few questions anyone still has about them?
Since the Big 3 joined forces, Miami has taken 3-0, first-round leads against the 76ers in 2011 and against the Knicks a year ago. The Heat lost by four in Game 4 in Philadelphia and by two in Game 4 in New York. In both cases, they then had to wait three nights to close out their overmatched opponents.
This time around, there would be only one night off before a potential Game 5 Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Heat appear to recognize that it would be irresponsible to make that game necessary. They have won more games (40) in their past 42 contests than the Bucks (38) have won since the start of the regular season. And the Heat have repeatedly shown that they are more disciplined than has been true the past two seasons.
“This is our next step in our development,” LeBron James said after Thursday’s win.
“We know what’s at stake here,” Battier said.
“We’ve got to get over the hump,” Dwyane Wade said.
Erik Spoelstra seems intent on reminding them of that recent first-round history.
“We will definitely address that,” the coach said.
James spoke of how this team, this season, has stayed in the moment.
So here, more than anything, is why Sunday’s 48 moments matter:
Wade, and his bruised right knee, could use as much rest as possible prior to the second round, even though that series against the Bulls or Nets wouldn’t start until next weekend at the soonest.
That’s why it might even make sense to put Mike Miller in Wade’s place Sunday, especially since Miller proved – in going 15-2 as a starter this season – that he is a capable replacement. Spoelstra on Friday would not commit to any such move, although the coach did reveal that Wade, on a day the Heat did not practice, was spending a couple of hours getting treatment at his former school, Marquette University.
“We’ll see how he feels,” Spoelstra said.
He tried to allay concerns that the current issues are as serious as those related to Wade’s other knee last postseason, issues that Wade couldn’t fully resolve until offseason surgery.
“Totally different,” Spoelstra said. “Not anywhere near that. Structurally, his knee is as good as it’s been in years. And that’s why we are treating it day-to-day. This is a bone bruise. What it needs is time, and it gets better, and what it mostly needs is no collisions.”
Spoelstra also praised Wade for contributing in so many ways in Game 3, even on a night that the guard made just one of 12 shots. Wade had nine rebounds, 11 assists and five steals and helped contain Monta Ellis.
“The maturity of what he brought, and the experience, really showed,” Spoelstra said.
Now, what level of maturity will the Heat – with or without Wade — show Sunday?
Or will they give Milwaukee a reason to show up in Miami on Tuesday?