What a difference a week makes. Dwyane Wade scored only 5 points in Miami’s first game in Indiana, en route to a 75-94 defeat. Chris Bosh out; LeBron James without any help. The Pacers actually looked like the better team and sudden favorites to win the series.
A week and three games later, order is restored. The two best players in the series, both on the same team, made all the difference. Wade averaged 33 points in Games 4-6, shooting an incredible 61.5% from the field; LeBron James averaged 32.7 points with 55.1% shooting, adding 11.3 rebounds and 8 assists per game. You couldn’t ask for anything more, from the two players who single-handedly changed the course of the series.
We can talk all we like about how Indiana failed to execute and do the things they should have done all through the series down the stretch. How Danny Granger and Paul George struggled against superior players and defenders. How Roy Hibbert couldn’t dominate except for one game, despite not facing a big man in his size and caliber.
But this was mostly about James and Wade taking it to another level, which the Pacers, and anyone else in the East, doesn’t have. They took their team with them, on the way bringing the defense back to where it was most of the season.
They forced the Pacers to 20 turnovers in Game 6, constantly trapping and attacking the pick n’ roll. Shane Battier and Joel Anthony were huge against Hibbert and West, getting enough help from James who averaged 2.8 steals in the series. Indiana players failed to move the ball quickly enough to exploit the double team’s gaps and take advantage of an ever shorter Miami rotation.
James played 45 minutes, averaging 42 in the series. Shane Battier had 40 minutes on the floor as well. Frank Vogel had an interesting remark about the absence of Chris Bosh – It means LeBron James and Dwyane Wade get more touches on the ball. I’m not sure if it’s such an advantage.
The moment the two of them decided their taking this series on their back and into the Pacers paint, it was over. Roy Hibbert troubled LeBron James, but Dwyane Wade doesn’t care and didn’t care about anything in his way while driving to the basket. He was incredible in the second quarter from outside as well, but the bread and butter, splitting the double teams and automatically attacking the basket resulted in 41 points. James set the aggressive tone in Game 4, and it’s been relentless on both ends ever since.
Everyone kept talking about how the Heat needed a third guy to be in double figures, just like the Thudner have. Without Haslem and with Battier exhausted from his defensive effort, it was finally Mario Chalmers, the most gifted offensive player beyond the big three, who was big with 15 points, hitting 3-4 from beyond the arc. Udonis Haslem will be back next game, be it against Philly or Boston. The Heat are suddenly winning back players along with games.
Is this the best team in the East once again? Even without Bosh, the impressive way in which they dispatched of Indiana was a warning sign to both Philadelphia, who struggled against the Heat during the regular season and even the Celtics, who probably have taken a confidence hit during their series with the 76ers. They might win Game 7, but they’ve shown more than enough weaknesses.
If James and Wade have a lot left in the tank, then everybody, East and West, should be worried. This is the best tandem in the league, showing on both ends of the floor just how great players, closer, you name it, they can be. Being the first teammates to register 40 points, 10 rebounds games in the same series since 2001 is just more proof for what everybody knew and forgot.