In what to some may have been a delayed victory, the Heat closed out the Pacers in Indiana last night. The 12 point victory sent last year’s Eastern Conference Champions back into the Eastern Conference Finals where they await the winner of the 76ers-Celtics game 7 tonight.
Where the chief contributor for Miami through the first 5 games was dominantly LeBron James, he took the secondary role to Dwyane Wade last night, who put on an epic performance, highlighted by a 20 point second quarter.
Wade was unstoppable, taking advantage of mismatches in the post, hitting fade aways, floaters, scoops and finishing sickening circus shots, as only Dwyane Wade can. He finished with 41 points and 10 rebounds, and with James they became the second duo in NBA history to record 40 and 10 in the same series. The only other instance was the self titled ‘greatest 1-2 punch ever’ of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
LeBron James added 28 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds. But James offered a possession unlike anything I have ever seen before. It was late in the third quarter and I swear to you that at one point through the possession James checked each and every Pacers player. It started by fronting West, which led to a switch on Barbosa and he then moved back to Paul George. From George he switched to Hansbrough and finished by closing out on George Hill.
Because of what he does on the other end of the court, his defense is severely underrated. There has not been anyone in the history of the game that can do what he does on defense. It’s bewildering that a human being can do the things he does.
A special mention has to go out to the mummy man, the thing, the zombie, the living dead, the shoeless one, whatever you want to call him. Mike Miller can barely trundle up and down the court. He is so broken that a season of Dr Phil couldn’t save him. But he straps them up each and every night and gives the few tiny ounces of life he still has in him to still fight for every rebound and get himself open for his killer three pointers. Miller had 4 threes in the close out game and that 12 points was the winning margin. Without his indescribable toughness the Heat may not have won this game.
The bottom line is that when Dwyane Wade and LeBron James play like they have these past three games and do it together, there isn’t a team in the world that can stop them. Forget the 30 points per game they both offer. Forget the 8 rebounds and 8 assists they’ll both give on any given night. Their ability to control the game on both ends of the court is what sets them apart from the greatest in the game. Tell me whatever you want about Kevin Durant but until he takes advantage of his freakish length and becomes the defender he should be, he isn’t even close to being on James and Wade’s level.
We don’t know when Chris Bosh will be back. We don’t know who the Heat will play in the Eastern Conference Finals and we don’t know who they will play in the NBA Finals, should they make it there.
But what we do know is that James and Wade are playing the best basketball of their entire careers and they are doing it in a way that compliments each other.
Should that continue, the previous unanswered questions will be obsolete, meaningless, irrelevant.