Any loss in a seven-game series could doom you.
A humiliating, 36-point blowout loss deepens the concern exponentially.
What happened to the Miami Heat at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night should frighten the defending champion Heat to their core.
A lopsided loss, especially when a team comes back home, is common place. The margin of victory is not what the Heat should focus on, it's how they lost Game 3.
To reasonably expect anything from Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade at this point is becoming unrealistic. Both played decently on Tuesday as Wade had 16 points and Bosh added 12 and 10 boards.
But LeBron James was not very good. He had 15 points on 7-for-21 shooting. Of course, he also had 11 rebounds and five assists, but he's averaging just under 17.0 ppg during the Finals.
The Big Three was bad. That itself is alarming, but not jarring. They didn't play great in Game 2 and the Heat won.
And there's no shame losing to the Spurs. Plenty of guys headed to the Hall of Fame have lost to the Spurs. They boast three Hall of Famers and a coach headed to Springfield.
But here's the scariest aspect of the Heat's Game 3 loss - none of those men factored into the setback.
Duncan was solid with 12 points and 14 rebounds. Tony Parker had six points, eight assists and a calf massage while Manu Ginobili is a feeble shell of his daredevil self.
When the second-most successful trio in playoff history struggles, you should win the game.
The Heat got rolled by Danny Green and Gary Neal.
The two combined to shoot 13-for-19 from the 3-point line on Tuesday. These two guys nearly matched the NBA Finals record for 3-pointers made FOR AN ENTIRE TEAM. (Don't worry, Kawhi Leonard's two and Parker's one set a new mark.)
Green had 27 points and is the clubhouse favorite for Finals MVP.
Think about that - with James, Duncan, Wade, Parker, Bosh, Ginobili, Ray Allen, shoot even Tracy McGrady could get into the Hall of Fame, it's Green who is emerging as the MVP.
Green was taken in the second round of the 2009 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was picked up by San Antonio, immediately cut, re-signed and sent to the D-League.
The story goes Gregg Popovich told him he had to mentally get tougher. It worked.
"Luckily, I've been open," said Green, who is a jaw-dropping 16-for-23 from beyond the arc this series. "They trusted in me. I kept running the floor, trying to get open."
Neal scored 24 points off the bench, including 14 in the first half. He set the tone for a Spurs team that took a six-point lead into the locker room.
Neal's story is also far from storybook. He left La Salle University after a rape allegation (he was acquitted), walked on to the Towson team, flourished, but didn't get drafted. Neal played in Turkey, Spain and Italy and eventually found a home in San Antonio.
"He's a professional," said Popovich. "He's a quality individual. He made himself ready. He really helped us tonight, obviously."
It's cause for serious alarm when it's those two destroying your team.
Don't be foolish, the Heat are not done. Yes, in the scenario of a 1-1 series, in this 2-3-2 format, the team that has won Game 3 has won the title 92 percent of the time, but Miami is 5-0 this postseason after a loss. All five wins have come by double-digits.
However, there is no way this Heat team should lose a game this way.
"We've got to regroup, figure out what we did wrong, which was a lot of things," said James. "I have to play better. I can't have a performance like that."
It won't matter if Green and Neal keep firing away.