Where has that been?
Miami came into game 4 of the NBA Finals in need of some magic from their stars, none of which put more pressure on himself than LeBron James who built up expectations on his game in the press conferences leading up to last night’s contest saying that he had to play better and be more aggressive.
The Heat hadn’t been able to get anyone going in the first three games, failing to have a 20 point scorer in any of the first three contests. In response, all three of their $20 million stars responded with a big performance that would turn this series on its head. San Antonio had no response for the Heat’s intensity on the boards or the defensive end.
Miami created twice as many Spurs turnovers as they committed and outrebounded the Spurs 41-36. LeBron James got his 33 point night off to a quick start by getting to the basket. With James’ post moves and strength going to the rim, the Heat ball movement and the fast pace with which they started, it didn’t take long for the MVP to get a few buckets under his belt, but his impact wasn’t the one to make the biggest difference.
The performance of Dwyane Wade, particularly in the fourth quarter while James sat on the bench, was nothing short of epic. Nailing his jump shots, getting to the basket and the foul line, Wade completely demolished the Spurs with a 32 point night that was unlike any other performance we’ve seen from the ailing star of late.
The Spurs had no answer for Wade, who like the rest of the Heat showed up big on the defensive end. Wade finished with six steals and a block and completely disrupted the flow that Danny Green has been in. This was the performance that James needed to see from Wade. Having Wade go off in such a way provides James with the freedom to do as needs to in the post, which is where he could have his biggest impact in the series.
The MVP finished with 11 rebounds and took just two three pointers in the game. Getting him close to the basket for higher percentage shots, developing a flow to the game for him from the start was a major factor. It worked against the Pacers, it’s worked against the Spurs when the Heat have gone to it and considering that James’ future probably lies at the power forward position, they should just keep going to it.
Chris Bosh playing the center role has been an issue for the Heat at times because he doesn’t show the aggression of a center, opting to shoot long range jump shots instead of fighting for boards and providing a presence in the paint, but in game four he was ever present from around the basket finishing with 20 points and 13 rebounds while not taking a single three pointer. When he did break away from the hoop, Bosh found open looks from mid range, probably the best shot he has at his disposal.
But Bosh’s most significant contribution was provided on the defensive end where he finished with two massive fourth quarter blocks and a pair of steals. Late in the game, Bosh made it difficult for the Spurs to enter the paint, finally playing the big man role with some anger and flare in his game.
The question now is whether or not the Heat can sustain this. Clearly, this was the best they’ve played against San Antonio barring that 33-5 stretch in game two. They’ve made this a three game series now and have restored home court advantage for themselves, but does Eric Spoelstra go back to their usual game plan of emptying the paint to clear the lane for Wade and James to drive? Do they surrender the boards again to space the floor in their usual manner?
Gregg Popavich made an interesting statement during last night’s game when asked about the impact of the Spurs turnovers off camera. He said: “It’s not like they suddenly have a half court offense.”
That says it all. The Heat made shots, they rebounded, they played defense and forced turnovers. Their half court offense is still weak, but when they do those things they are really tough to beat. What we saw in game four should be the game plan from here on out. Put James in the post where he play with his back to the basket and use his post moves on Kawhi Leonard or Tim Duncan. Give Wade the perimeter and let him slash to the basket to make plays and make Chris Bosh play like a true center. Most of all, play angry, play confident and play like it’s the last game of their season. If the Heat do that, they’ll win their second straight title.