MIAMI — The San Antonio Spurs left Miami last June looking so human, Tim Duncan nearly in tears talking about how close they were to another championship.
They don't look human now. They look like a machine.
Up 3-1 and shooting the ball at a level never seen in the NBA Finals, the Spurs headed home with a chance to wrap things up on Sunday night in Game 5.
The Miami Heat, who were able to deny the Spurs last year, have two days to figure out what can possibly be done to do it again.
"They're a high-oil machine and they move the ball extremely well," LeBron James said. "They put you in so many difficult positions. If you're not right on time, right on target, they're going to make you pay for it."
The Spurs won by 19 and 21 in the two games in Miami and are shooting 54.2 percent in the series. The NBA Finals record for a series of any length is 52.7 percent.
No team has overcome a 3-1 deficit in the finals, and the Heat were so thoroughly manhandled in Miami that the only reason to think they could be the first is what they did in the past.
Duncan said the memory of last season's loss — the pain that's driven the Spurs through this entire season — would "definitely come up" before Sunday.
"As I said, we know the caliber team they are, and we have a lot of respect for what they're able to do," Duncan said. "They're able to throw it another gear and they're going to do just that. They don't want this to be done."
Duncan probably meant "done" as in the series. Of course, it could also mean the era.
Two off days were sure to be filled by talk of the Heat's uncertain future, with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all eligible for free agency. Might such a one-sided beating convince James he had to leave to find a better roster elsewhere? Make him more resolute in his desire to stay and get the Heat back on top?