Last night the Heat’s play, league MVP LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in particular, resembled that of the league’s best team and defending champion. Before game four, some might say because of great defense by the Spurs, James had yet to have a 20 point game during this series. Game three ended with his having not attempted a free throw.
It’s difficult to find a problem with a player that is averaging nearly a triple double through four games but much more is expected from what most should consider to be the best basketball player on planet earth.
Last night LeBron James looked like LeBron James with 33 points and 11 rebounds. That magnificent effort alone would probably be enough in a regular season game against Cleveland, for example (What? Too soon?). There has to be, if not equal, solid efforts from his teammates, in particular fellow Big Three-mates, Wade and Chris Bosh, respectively.
Enter Wade circa 2006. Dwyane Wade had six steals and six rebounds to go with his 32 points and more importantly had no turnovers. Wade spent the entire game playing the aggressive defense that once had him on everyone’s All-NBA first team. If I had a vote and last night’s game was the only evidence I had to consider, he’d have my vote lock, stock and barrel.
He shot 14 for 25 from the field without taking the ball out of James’ hands. This was the way the Heat played all season, performing a balancing act between the Big Three and the bench players on offense while getting massive efforts from all five players on the floor on defense. This team is very, very hard to beat when they play this way. The Heat have not lost back-to-back games throughout these playoffs. They are 6-0 following a loss.
When James and Bosh famously signed on to play with Wade in Miami there was a sense that something special was about to occur. Three seasons later they are playing in their third consecutive Finals and are tied two games all, with one more remaining in San Antonio before the series returns to Miami. Mathematically they are guaranteed another home game, and that bodes well for them. The game the Spurs won in Miami (Game 1) was by four points and two of those came late on a Tony Parker Harlem Globetrotter-esque up and under jumper.
It is realistic to say the Heat should be up 3-1 going into Saturday’s game. No matter. The series is now tied and the home court advantage is no longer the elephant in the room, the real LeBron James has reappeared and more importantly he has help. Dwayne Wade has found his mojo again. Message to San Antonio: They’re back.