Wade is now on a career-worst 12-game streak of failing to score 20 or more points. Reggie Miller, the former Pacer, has said on TNT that Wade seemed “uninterested” in this series, and “going through the motions.”
No. It surely isn’t a lack of interest. It is a lack of health handcuffing Wade. “Dwyane is giving us what he’s got,” as Spoelstra said.
But the bottom line is the same for Miami: The Big 3 has been reduced to the Big 1 by Wade and Bosh’s concurrent offensive slumps.
James even admitted he mentally “went back to my Cleveland days” in Game 5, aggressively taking over offensively — because he knew it was up to him. Because he knew Wade and Bosh — for whatever reason — were not playing like the two stars he came here to join in the summer of 2010.
James left Cleveland to escape the exact situation he finds himself in heading into Game 7.
Wade’s postseason average of 13.5 is a full 10 points under what he averaged the previous two postseasons. Bosh has been no better, scoring 20 only once in 15 playoff games this year including only 7, 7 and 5 the past three games.
Together Wade and Bosh are averaging 14 points fewer in this postseason than what they combined for in the regular season — a huge dropoff.
“We’ll try to get them where they can be aggressive,” Spoelstra had said before the game of the Wade/Bosh slump. “No question.”
And no question, it didn’t work.
Miami missed suspended Chris (Birdman) Andersen, although Joel Anthony filled in capably with a team-leading eight rebounds.
It wasn’t the lack of Birdman that cost Miami as much as it was Wade and Bosh still being caged, unable to fly.
“They’re a major part of what we do. I need to find a way to get them in places where they can be aggressive,” Spoelstra repeated himself afterward.
Wade’s frustration at being so physically limited when the team needs him most has become obvious, and a subject tread carefully.
“It can’t be put into words,” he said.
This was the second straight postseason Miami carried a 3-2 series lead into a Game 6 at Indiana, and the second straight year the Heat sought to triumphantly advance while leaving Pacers fans shell-shocked.
“We’ll see where we’re at,” said Pacer Paul George. “This will determine how much we’ve grown.”
The Heat seemed to as well, though — seemed better than ever — until lately.
This 25th franchise season in some ways has shaped up as the Heat’s best ever. It has been played as a reigning champion. It saw a club-record for regular victories (66). And it included 26 consecutive wins at one point, second-longest streak ever.
Only now the team that did all that has become a Big 1, not a Big 3.
The Pacers supposedly had desperation on their side Saturday, in what literally was a must-win for them. But the Heat said they were not conceding that mindset.
“We’re desperate, too,” LeBron had said. “We’re desperate to get back to the NBA Finals.”
Odds are they still will. But this has gotten very interesting, hasn’t it?
Two heavyweights lurch into a Round 7/Game 7 and we wait to see if the Heat can lift itself from the canvas and throw the hardest punch. And the last one.
It is what champions do.