The difference in Game 4 of the NBA Finals that propelled the Miami Heat to a 109-93 victory over the San Antonio Spurs was the simple fact that the South Beach “Big Three” actually played like the “Big Three.”
After LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh had been heavily criticized over the first three games of the series, they combined for 85 points, 30 rebounds, 10 steals and five blocks on 37-64 shooting from the field.
LeBron hit another gear like many had been asking for him to do for the entire series. He finally started playing aggressively with the ball and attacking the rim. Bosh also came up big by finding his way into the post more often and being active on the glass.
However, the most surprising performance definitely came from Wade.
After looking like less than a shell of himself through the first three games with his knee injury, Wade looked like his old self, attacking the rim, knocking down mid-range jumpers and being incredibly active on the defensive end. His defense was an enormous factor as he created transition opportunities for Miami that allowed their offense to get in rhythm.
Wade alone finished with 32 points, six rebounds, four assists and six steals on 14-of-25 shooting.
Thursday’s Game 4 marked just the third 20-point game of these playoffs for Wade and it was his first 30-point game since March 4. His knee has obviously been ailing him over the past month and a half, but he played through it valiantly. The problem is that it’s unlikely that he will be able to replicate that type of performance for the second game in a row.
If Wade comes out and plays like he did in the first three games of the Finals in game 5, that puts the burden on the other two components of the “Big Three.” Bosh will need to continue to be active in the post, rely less on deep jumpers and to be a willing rebounder.
However, the bulk of the load will have to rest on the shoulders of James.
There’s no question at this point, even to the most vehement of LeBron-haters, that James is the best player in the league and in this series. He has the ability to make things happen on both ends of the floor seemingly at his every whim. However, he hadn’t done that until Game 4, and even then it wasn’t complete.
Though it seems like a tall task to ask of any player, it’s hard to imagine the Heat coming out with a victory if Wade underperforms again and James doesn’t put up a stat-line around 35 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. They need him to attack the rim to get his shots and create for his teammates, as well as to give help on the glass and play relentless defense.
It’s a near impossible undertaking, but if anyone could do it, it’s an engaged LeBron James.
In an ideal world for the Heat, Wade would come out in Game 5 like he had never been hurt at all and deliver another 30 points and six steals for Miami. In reality, though, it’s pretty far-fetched. Because of that, all eyes are going to be on LeBron in Game 5. He has the opportunity to single-handedly give the Heat the advantage in this series; the only question is if he will seize the moment or prove all the critics right by shying away from it.