No reminder is needed about 2006 when the Miami Heat are at home. Plastered all over all walls near the locker room are photos from their comeback Finals win that year over Dallas.
As for the last years Finals against the Mavericks, there are no physical reminders. But guard Dwyane Wade believes teammates need to think about that painful loss before they step on the floor for Saturdays first-round opener against New York.
If they havent done it already, guys need to take a minute back and go back to that dark place and how we felt and understand what were shooting for, said Wade, who joins forward Udonis Haslem as the only Heat players remaining from the 2006 title team. Its an uphill battle to get there, but we feel we can . If were playing good and other teams are playing good, we feel we should win (the title). We got to go out and do that, but, obviously, we got to look back and we got to feel that pain a little bit to remember.
Of the 15 Miami players, 10 remain from last year, when the Heat fell 4-2 to the Mavericks. They lost several fourth-quarter leads in the series, the most damaging a 15-point bulge that disappeared in Game 2, preventing Miami from taking a 2-0 lead.
We have a couple of times, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said about reminding his team about the Dallas loss. Weve revisited it. But I think its also important not to obsess about it. Its all in our consciousness somewhere.
Heat forward LeBron James, a nine-year veteran, needs little reminding about last year. It was his best chance to finally win an NBA title, but he disappeared during fourth quarters, drawing plenty of criticism.
James took two weeks off after the season, holed up at his home and speaking to few. Finally, he decided it was time to get back to work to claim the one prize that has eluded him.
Those two weeks I took off after the season last year when we lost, Ive been preparing from that moment on to get back to this point in the postseason, James said.
And how well has James done so far? Let Spoelstra explain.
His regular-season performance speaks for itself and the excitement he has going into the second season. Hes played at an MVP level, Spoelstra said of a season in which James averaged 27.1 points, a career-high 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists while shooting a career-best 53.1 percent.
James looks to be a cinch to win his third MVP. But he was handed the Maurice Podoloff Trophy in 2009 and 2010 when his Cleveland Cavaliers each time had the best record in the NBA, and he didnt add the Larry OBrien Trophy to his resume.
So obviously theres plenty of pressure on James as these playoffs get underway.
Theres always going to be pressure, James said. This is the biggest stage. Its a second season, its a huge stage. For myself, this is a big part of my season, the best part of my season, so theres going to be pressure. Pressure moments, and you just got to believe in your ability and believe in your teammates and believe in the system, and then you live with it.
Wade doesnt deny theres even more pressure on the Heat this season to win it all. After all, this was the guy who said at the start of training camp If we dont win a championship, yes, its a bust year."
Last year, it was kind of like, Well, they just got together, " Wade said of James and forward Chris Bosh joining forces with him in the summer of 2010. There werent a lot of people who thought we could win it last year . I think we surprised a lot of people in getting to the Finals. And this year, its more, Well, the Heat got to win it from an outside perspective. But from the inside, we want to win it.
The Heat at least are healthier now than they were last year at this time. After missing most of the regular season due to a foot injury, Haslem would sit out the first two playoff series and wasnt himself in the Finals. Swingman Mike Miller also was battered after an injury-plagued regular season.
Perhaps having a fully healthy team would have been enough for the Heat to have beaten Dallas. Regardless, what Haslem remembers is how painful it was to lose that series.
It felt real bad, he said. It was very, very, very disappointing, especially the way we lost, having fourth-quarter games, and I think the majority of those games not being able to hold them off. It was unfortunate, and definitely, if anything, it motivates us. We got to play every game to the end.
If not, when the Heat report to training camp next fall, theyll be greeted with no photos on the wall commemorating a 2012 Finals victory.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson