The Miami Heat needed to win Game 4 against the Brooklyn Nets. Not just based on the mental edge the Heat would have, but also because heading back to American Airlines Arena tied at 2-2 would have made this series much more intriguing and prolonged for both teams involved. But alas, the Heat, and more specifically LeBron James were able to pull out a gritty 102-96 victory against the veteran-laden Nets and solidify their dominance in this series.
James had an otherworldly performance, scoring a career-playoff-high 49 points with six rebounds, two assists and three steals. James thoroughly dominated this game on both ends of the court, but he was the only player in a Heat uniform seemingly putting it all on the line. The lack of production from the bench, and more importantly the other two members of the Heat’s Big Three, could be a major problem going forward. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade combined for just 27 points, nine rebounds and three assists while shooting a collective 55 percent from the field. With the bench only registering 16 points combined, both Wade and Bosh needed to step up offensively in this game yet it was James once again carrying this team on his shoulders to the finish line. It was not an ideal situation for the defending champs, and it’s one that needs to be corrected immediately.
Outside of James, the aggression and energy just wasn’t there for the Heat in this victory, and every single player from the starting lineup to the bench has to perform better if winning a third straight title is still the long-term goal. The steady decline of the Heat’s bench is troubling but can be easily corrected with a dominating Game 5 victory in Miami. Where depth will become an issue is in the NBA Finals (if the Heat advance that far) where a matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs or the Oklahoma City Thunder could expose how weak the defending champs’ bench has been all season.
It’s time for all players (excluding James) in a Heat uniform to step their respective games up. James can only carry this team so far for so long without production from his main counterparts. How the bench performs will define how this season ends for the Heat. Whether it’s with a third straight championship or a disappointing end that potentially leads to the disbanding of one of the greatest teams we have ever seen put together is yet to be determined.