By Frank Pingue
SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - The top-seeded Miami Heat were at a loss to explain their stunning inability to win consecutive games for nearly a month, a sequence they must break if they are to repeat as NBA champions.
Inconsistent play and stiff competition have baffled the Heat, who have surprisingly alternated wins and losses over the last 12 playoff games.
"If I knew the answer we would have won two games in a row. I don't know. Just haven't been able to do it," LeBron James said after his team was pushed to the brink of defeat in the NBA Finals after Sunday's 114-104 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
Miami had gained momentum in the best-of-seven Finals when the 'Big Three' of James and fellow All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 85 points in a Game Four win that evened the series at 2-2.
The trio combined for 66 points in Sunday's loss and now find themselves with their backs firmly pressed against the wall, needing to win two straight or surrender their crown.
"Can't really explain it right now," said Wade, who had 25 points on 10-of-22 shooting in a game the Heat trailed the entire way. "We continue to start slow. We just (dug) ourselves in a deep hole very early."
Miami barreled through the regular season with a franchise-record 66 wins, including a 27-game winning streak, followed by an 8-1 record over the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Next they eked by the Indiana Pacers in a series that went the full seven games.
The Spurs are presenting a much tougher challenge than the Heat faced in last year's Finals, when they beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games as the Big Three won their first title playing together.
Coming from behind against a veteran team that has plenty of championship pedigree will pose a different problem for the Heat, who started the season as heavy favorites to repeat as NBA champions.
"We look forward to the challenge. We've been here before," said James. "We've been on both sides of the fences. See what happens, and we got an opportunity to do something special. And we look forward to it."
Making things tougher for the Heat is that San Antonio is getting production from all over their line-up, most notably Danny Green, who has been a threat from three-point range all series long.
The Heat trailed the entire game on Sunday and every time it seemed they would overtake the Spurs, the home side managed to pull away and regain momentum.
"Our focus now, which is what we wanted to do in this game and we were a far cry from it, is to focus on playing our best game," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said looking ahead to Tuesday's Game Six in Miami.
(Editing by John O'Brien)