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 resemble a machine.

Up 3-1 and shooting the ball at a level never seen in the best-of-seven NBA Finals, the Spurs headed home with a chance to wrap things up Sunday night in Game 5.

The Miami Heat, which was able to deny the Spurs last year, is trying to figure out what can possibly be done to win its third consecutive title.

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“They’re a high-oil machine and they move the ball extremely well,” Heat superstar LeBron James said of the Spurs. “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 was so thoroughly manhandled in Miami the only reason to think it could be the first is what the team did in the past.

Duncan said the memory of last season’s loss — the pain that has 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.


• San Antonio’s Game 4 victory drew an average television audience of 14,964,000 viewers and a 9.3 national rating on ABC.

• The draft is in less than two weeks, free agency officially starts in less than three weeks and the Los Angeles Clippers could still have some rocky moments ahead regarding their ownership situation.

But league commissioner Adam Silver said he has plenty of confidence the Clippers will manage to go about their offseason dealings without problems.

• The Charlotte Hornets have placed the team’s future personnel decisions in the hands of general manager Rich Cho.

Rod Higgins has stepped down as the team’s president of basketball operations.

Cho, a Washington State graduate, is a former Sonics assistant general manager.