Unlike the first two games of the NBA Finals, the duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade actually seemed to hurt the Miami Heat during the moments that mattered with lazy defense and even lazier thinking on offense. Unlike the first loss this wasn’t a stroke of bad luck or cramping. This was a duo of great players being unable to make the right decisions while the Miami Heat were being swept aside by the San Antonio Spurs.
The numbers aren’t that awful. James finished with 22 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 steals. He shot 9-of-14 from the field including 50% from beyond the arc. Dwyane Wade scored 22 points as well, making 8-of-12 shots. The duo however turned the ball over 12 times and constantly slowed down the game for the Heat instead of pushing up the tempo with the time for them to complete the comeback after a solid third quarter was running out.
James and Wade aren’t lazy players, but they seemed to be neglecting all effort in thinking hard about what to do offensively in game 3. Erik Spoelstra is also to blame, as the Heat found it difficult to actually create any motion on offense, which led to long and wasteful dribbles from James and Wade, defended very well by Green and Leonard during long stretches, and often lowering their heads and attacking the basket with no success.
At their worst, the numbers aren’t what you need to look at when the Heat’s star duo are concerned. It’s their impact on the game. And it was negative. Obviously, saying LeBron James was in charge of losing by 21 as his +/- numbers suggest isn’t telling the true story. The Heat couldn’t get stops for most of the game, while underused players like Chris Bosh and Rashard Lewis the entire game. It’s simply a disaster that Bosh took only four shots in the entire game.
And there’s the Mario Chalmers problem. He hasn’t shown up for the finals yet, and decimated possession after possession with his contagious touch during game 3. He missed open shots and bad shots, turning the ball over with weird, inexplicable passes. Spoelstra got plenty from Norris Cole, but he might start thinking about playing without both of them like he tried to for a short while, even though that didn’t work out for other reasons.
The Heat aren’t all about James and Wade, but these two give them an advantage over the Spurs in certain situations. Players who can create points out of nothing, and force the defense to change and switch just by being on the floor. Not making the most of their abilities isn’t a mortal sin, but it’s disastrous to a team that has its entire system built on them making the right decisions. The Heat can live with some things, but not when both of them and especially James do more harm then good even after being able to erase most of that 25-point lead the Spurs were able to build.