Chris Bosh and his Miami Heat teammates remember how it felt to lose a title on their homecourt last season. They have no intention of repeating that passion play.
Chris Bosh says last year's failure is behind the Miami Heat
Miami // Chris Bosh recently peered down the hallway that links the Miami Heat locker room and the team's home court.
Although nearly a year has passed, he still feels the pain.
It is what the Heat call "Championship Alley", the photograph-covered walls paying tribute to the NBA championship run in 2006.
For Bosh, it has a totally different meaning. It is the place where the sting of losing the finals a year ago made him drop to his knees in anguish, a moment captured for the world to see by television cameras he did not know were there.
"I want it to be different this time," said Dwyane Wade, the Heat guard. "I want these guys to feel what they see every day in this arena."
What they see - hundreds of photographs of Miami's title celebrations - represents what this team is chasing. What the Heat were a year ago, in the first chapter of the "Big Three" era in Miami, was probably best described as angry and spiteful.
So now, with the start of another play-off run looming, Wade and Bosh say the mental approach is going to be considerably different this time around.
The Heat open the post-season at home against the New York Knicks on Saturday, claiming to be just as driven to win a title as they were a year ago, except this time they believe for more of the right reasons.
"Last year we played to shut everybody up and to prove people wrong instead of playing to win a championship," Wade said. "We should have played the way we had our whole lives - to raise the trophy up and be called champions. We didn't have that mindset.
"That's different now."
That has been a mantra of sorts for Miami throughout this season, beginning around the start of training camp when LeBron James - the player at the epicentre of Heat hate a year ago - said he was going to try to get past the issues that he thinks held the club back last season. James said he did not play the game with joy, like he typically did as a youngster growing up in Akron, Ohio, and then for his first seven seasons in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
This year, James said many times that he indeed was able to successfully change his approach.
It apparently rubbed off on everyone else in the Heat locker room as well.
"You just have to play the game," Bosh said. "I think last year I got too caught up in, 'This is it. We have to win. We're going to win'.
"Sometimes it doesn't happen like that. You just have to play the game."
Most Heat players walked down the hallway from the court to the locker room showing very little emotion as the Dallas Mavericks were celebrating the title. A few said afterward they did not know how to react in those first few moments, saying the overriding emotion was shock more than anything else.
Bosh did not wait to react. Erick Dampier, the back-up centre, helped him down the hall, as Bosh walked with a hand covering his face. He is not embarrassed by the moment.
"I own it. I embrace it," Bosh said. "I didn't know there were cameras in the back and everything. That was a private moment, honestly, for me ... I was heart-broken. I had my heart torn from my chest and broken.
"That wasn't a good feeling. I don't cringe from it. It reminds me of what can happen. That was just that one moment, but we live it until this day, until we get over the hump."
For all the attention James and Wade get, and rightly so, both say that Bosh may be the key to Miami getting over that hump.
It is not a deflection of responsibility. It is a statement about numbers. When Bosh scored 20 points or more this season, the Heat were 19-3, and since Bosh came to Miami, the Heat are 50-15 in two years - including last year's play-offs - when he gets to 20.
It is not all about scoring, either - when he gets 10 rebounds Miami are 39-10.
"I can lay in the weeds and we can maybe win or maybe not," Bosh said.
"But if I have a good game, our records are winning ones."
There is no shortage of motivation for Bosh and the Heat in these play-offs.
Especially after what happened in last year's play-offs.
"Obviously, losing burns," Wade said.
"And it hurts. But we wanted it last year just as much as this year. That wound is still there. Going into the post-season you have to relive the kind of moments from last year so you can feel that hurt a little bit, and refocus.
"But we want it just as bad."
Their first chance to show that comes Saturday.
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