He may be arrogant, obnoxious and an all-round dislikeable person but as much as it pains you, you have to admit that Skip Bayless is right. If you have watched ESPN’s First Take then you will have no doubt heard the thought-provoking Mr Bayless say: “The Miami Heat will only go as far as Dwyane Wade takes them.”
That’s not to say Wade is the best player on this Heat squad, clearly that title goes to LeBron James. Rather, it means James is more or less a certainty to get his, but how much of a factor will his wingman be? In other word: the bigger his impact, the higher the chances of a Miami Heat victory.
And from the looks of things, it’s hard to argue against his theory.
Flash hasn’t had particularly outstanding stats in the playoffs but he has shown glimpses of vintage Wade. On several occasions, he has attacked the defense, found his way into the paint at will and somehow contort his body for spectacular finishes among the trees – just like he has done throughout his Hall-of-Fame career.
The key to all of that: Being in attack mode.
In the series-clinching Game 5 against the Brooklyn Nets, Wade put up an impressive 28 points and was aggressive, thus his 55 percent shooting and eight shots from the foul line. That aggressive play and quality continued through to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers, where he averaged nearly 20 points (19.8) on 54.5 percent shooting, to set his postseason highs in any series this year. And in the series opener of the NBA Finals, it looked like the awesome play would continue, after he wriggled his way to 19 points in a losing effort.
However, as we have gone into deeper into the series, we haven’t seen much improvement. If anything, he has actually regressed.
During the Finals, the Miami Heat guard has averaged a postseason low 16.3 points per game while hitting 46 percent of his shots. Both figures are his lowest during the championship period, with the shooting accuracy 3 percent below par and 8 percent lower than his regular season average.
His poorest performance though, couldn’t have come at a worse time.
With the Heat trailing on their home floor and facing the prospect of going down 3-1, the All-Star provided just 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting. The most worrying thing about it was that the majority of the shots came from within the paint. So the bunnies he could have nailed in his sleep were no longer falling and San Antonio battered them 107-86.
“I just missed them,” he said. “I’m a very accurate shooter, so I don’t like missing. I’m not used to missing around the basket. But the law of averages, man … The ball just didn’t go in. Next game, I’ll take those same opportunities for sure.”
Be that as it may, unfortunately for Miami, the odds are severely stacked against them. Teams that have trailed 3-1 in the NBA Finals have never managed to overturn the deficit to win in 31 attempts. Sixteen teams lost in Game 5; 13 of them managed to drag the series out to six games; while only two (1951 New York Knicks and 1962 L.A. Lakers) forced a Game 7. Nevertheless, they all faltered.
Moreover, San Antonio is headed back home where they a 9-1 record during the playoffs. So if the Heat want to win their third straight title, then they better start praying for some miracles … and play better defense.
The Spurs have averaged 106 points per game in the last four contests and are on a history setting pace if they can maintain the 54.2 percent accuracy. It’s been a mixture of great shooting, helped by some shoddy defense, and one of the main culprits has been Wade.
His two steals per game may suggest the 32-year old is doing his bit, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story. His effort has been terrible, which has resulted in him getting beaten all too often. In Game 4, the 6’8”, 250-pound Boris Diaw dunked on him after some good ball movement by the team, and then later on there was an effortless blow by for a lay-up.
Upon reflection, perhaps the latter is somewhat understandable since it came off a post move and the Frenchman does have a 30-pound advantage. Plus, he is deceptively quick. The former however, makes no sense because Dwyane Wade has made living rejecting players who are much bigger and much more athletic than Diaw. Perhaps the injuries that resulted in him missing nearly a third of the regular season aren’t quite gone yet. Or maybe he was just a step too late.
Either way, the Miami Heat need him to be on point both offensively and defensively if they are going to pull of this miraculous comeback.