SAN ANTONIO -- The new Superman movie happens to open in theaters nationwide on Friday. I think we might have seen a sneak preview playing exclusively in this mid-Texas city Thursday night.
You wanted a superhero, Miami?
You desperately needed one?
You got two.
Their names: Dwyane Wade and LeBron James – in that order.
Superman saves the girl.
Wade and LeBron just saved the season.
Theirs were heroic performances or plenty close enough for the Heat, and for Miami fans able to exhale now and feel good again.
The Heat’s two embattled stars both had their best games of this NBA Finals, and that is why Miami beat the San Antonio Spurs 109-93 to tie the series 2-2 entering Sunday’s Game 5 right back here.
The victory assures that the Finals will return to Miami for at least a Game 6, and end on the Heat’s home court.
Wade welcomed back his old, elite self, finding his burst despite being hampered by a bruised right knee, and finding his bravado, too. His 32 points on 14-for-25 shooting marked his best game of the entire postseason, his six steals reflecting maniacal defense.
In one splendid fourth-quarter sequence, Wade stole the ball, raced downcourt and finished with a dunk. His face right then was full of bitter rage, like someone had just threatened his mother and he was about to punch somebody.
San Antonio had disrespected what it felt was a diminished Wade by starting the game with 6-11 Tiago Splitter guarding him.
The plan failed quickly because Wade played marvelously.
It was vintage stuff – a stunning performance of pure redemption.
“He was ’06 Flash tonight,” said LeBron of Wade, referencing the nickname he used when he was 2006 NBA Finals MVP. “And we needed every bit of it. He went back in his bag. He was Flash tonight.”
LeBron was just as good. James shook off three subpar offensive games in a row and played like the league MVP he is, with 33 points on 15-for-25 shooting, all of it fashioned of emphatically aggressive play that coach Erik Spoelstra said “set the tone.”
“I’ll be much better. I guarantee it,” LeBron had vowed before this game. “I put the pressure on my chest, on my back. I’ll do a better job of attacking their defense.”
LeBron had worn a red Heat T-shirt around his neck and draped down his back, cape-style, at Wednesday’s practice, like the world’s biggest kid playing dress-up as a superhero.
It was prescient.
“I’m just attacking,” LeBron said. “Just playing my game.”
Don’t forget Chris Bosh, starring in a supporting role in this superhero movie. He chipped in 20 points and 13 rebounds in a very active, involved performance. More was asked of him defensively because Miami played smaller with Mike Miller starting in place of Udonis Haslem. Bosh was up to the challenge.
Welcome back, Big 3.
Eighty-five combined points for three men who rose up hugely.
Eighty-five combined points doubling the 43 they’d averaged the first three games of this series.
Heat fans missed you, Big 3.
Your return was well timed, indeed. Desperately so.
The beauty and peril of a seven-game series is that every game is the biggest one … until the next one. But Thursday’s Game 4 felt like that for real for Miami. This felt like the night that would see the Heat’s repeat-title dreams rescued or effectively crushed.