Everyone thought the same thing after LeBron James‘ incredible third-quarter performance in Game 5: the Miami Heat turned the corner in the Eastern Conference Finals. However, the Indiana Pacers proved just the opposite with their own dominant third quarter in Game 6 to force a winner-take-all Game 7 back in South Beach. The difference in the two third-quarter feats was teamwork on Indiana’s end and a one-man show for Miami.
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are both hurt, so they’re not much help in this critical series and as good as James has been, the Pacers proved he can’t do it alone. LeBron said the “magic” words after Game 5: it reminded him of his Cleveland days and that’s exactly how the Heat played in Game 6.
Everyone stood around and watched James. Even on a fast break, Norris Cole dished to James for the jam when he was way out in front of the King. During the Heat’s 27-game win streak this year, that would have been called just an unselfish play. But on Saturday night, it was clear the Heat are simply watching LeBron like all the fans in attendance at the game.
If that continues into Game 7, the Heat’s dream of a repeat will end at home and they’ll be forced to regroup. It’s not like Miami has no one else on the team besides the Big Three; Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers, Udonis Halsem and Cole have each shown they can be relied upon when needed, especially on offense (Haslem is a defensive fiend, but his short-corner jumper is lethal).
This is affecting James on defense as well; other than chasing down fast breaks, he’s been very passive in this series, especially when defending the pick and roll. He doesn’t switch and he doesn’t communicate with his teammates, which often leads to the screener scoring on a backdoor cut.
LeBron is also not challenging Roy Hibbert in the paint when he has the ball, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except he’s now taking some ill-advised jumpers, which led to the Pacers pulling away in Game 6. In other words, the lack of production by Wade and Bosh is creating a domino effect on the rest of the team and Miami is suffering because of it. If that doesn’t change, it will be Indiana — not Miami — representing the East in the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs.