SAN ANTONIO The Miami Heat's ability to bounce back from defeat is the mark of a champion, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said on Friday.
Hot on the heels of one of the most lopsided losses ever seen in the NBA Finals, Miami's top players turned in their best game of the championship on Thursday to square the best-of-seven series at 2-2.
"The only thing I can tell myself after all these years is you're dealing with people, with emotions, and not robots," Popovich, who has won four NBA titles in 17 seasons as coach of the Spurs, told reporters on a conference call.
"They come out and they all play hard, but there's that little intangible, that little spark of intensity or back against the wall or a little bit of fear that just seems to kick in when you've lost the previous game.
"And when you find teams that can get over that, those are the championship teams."
Miami suffered a 113-77 loss in Texas on Tuesday where the Heat's much heralded Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were held to a combined 43 points.
Aware that no team has ever won the NBA championship after trailing 3-1 in the series, Miami entered Thursday's Game Four knowing a loss would be a death knell on a season that included a franchise-record 66 regular season wins.
The Heat's All-Star trio of James, Wade and Bosh responded in a big way, combining for 85 points in a 109-93 win that has shifted momentum in their favor ahead of Sunday's Game Five in San Antonio.
"They have that ability to kick it up a notch, where most teams don't," said Popovich.
"When they go to that next level or that next gear defensively and aggressiveness‑wise, you better be prepared for it and try to take advantage of it by moving the basketball, not playing in a crowd, that kind of thing.
"And our two losses against them we haven't done that very well."
The Spurs committed 16 turnovers in their Game Two loss and another 18 on Thursday as a more desperate Heat squad disrupted their flow.
Miami's performance did not come as a surprise to Popovich, who said his team was largely undone by their failure to move the ball around the court efficiently.
"The Heat have the same principles they have had all year long. They're an aggressive basketball team," said Popovich.
"They caused a lot of the turnovers with good aggressive defense, and we've allowed some of it to happen by playing in a crowd and not moving the ball expeditiously."
(editing by Julian Linden)