- J.A. Adande, NBA
- 0 Shares
DALLAS -- The whole point of Dwyane Wade's inviting LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join him in Miami was so Wade wouldn't have to do everything on his own. So, why is it Wade finds himself doing everything on his own?
In Game 3, he was swooping in from 3-point territory or hovering around the rim in pursuit of rebounds, and he finished with 11 boards -- the most of any Miami Heat player. In Game 4, he appointed himself the Guardian of the Hoop, blocking two Dallas Mavericks shots at point-blank range and challenging others, fouling if necessary. If "No Layups" was the law, Wade was a vigilante.
And he did all of this while scoring 61 points in the past two games, including 14 of Miami's 35 points in the fourth quarters.
True, Wade missed a free throw that could have tied Game 4 with 30 seconds remaining and lost control of the ball on Miami's final play, costing the Heat a chance for a clean look at a tying 3-pointer. But after his all-around play throughout his past 80 minutes on the court, he's entitled to the same waiver Dirk Nowitzki got in Game 3.
Bosh was there throughout Game 4, but he didn't arrive until the end of Game 3. James' impact has been dwindling ever since he left his aggressive drives into the lane back in the first quarter of Game 3. Wade, meanwhile, has scored at least six points in seven of the past eight quarters.
You can even find him making contributions while on the bench, such as the time he jumped up and pointed out defensive positioning to his teammates for a pending Dallas screen-and-roll.
This is hoop heroics of the highest order.
It's about a desire to take the big shots, as LeBron has become increasingly unwilling or unable to.
And most of all?
"It's the Finals," Wade said. "You just want to make sure, every night you leave the court, you feel like you left it all out there. It's not always going to be a positive result, but at the end of the day, if you feel like you left it all out there, you can be satisfied with the result."
If these past two games were the first two you had ever seen, you could easily be convinced that it's Wade, not LeBron or Nowitzki, who is seeking his first championship ring. That's the level of urgency Wade has displayed, literally from one end of the court to the other.
This forces us to consider two of the most underestimated elements of this series: Dwyane Wade's ego and his greed.
It's the good kind of ego, the kind of ego all superstars must possess if they are to fulfill their promise. How can someone be the best if he doesn't have the audacity to believe he really is that good? It's not an ego that has been overly territorial after James and Bosh arrived. They have shared the ball, shared credit and blame. There's no battle of wills threatening to shred the team. Yet Wade has maintained certain perks, such as being the last Heat player introduced at home games. Some things still matter.
Wade also is greedy in that Russell/Jordan/Magic sense, when winning championships early and/or often in their careers wasn't enough to satisfy them.
Wade's expectations for himself are greater than ours for are for him. We never demand that Wade win more championships because we never really plan to discuss him in the context of Jordan or Magic or Bird or Kobe. But if he winds up with a ring collection commensurate with theirs, won't we have to?
In the meantime, I hope you're appreciating all the skill and talent Wade is putting on display. It sure sounds as though the participants in this series are.
"He's one of the very best two-way players in this league," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "So, he shoulders a big responsibility for us offensively. But just as big on the other end, he made some big defensive plays."
Take the time he rose to block the dunk attempt of Tyson Chandler, who stands nine inches taller than him. Then Wade took off the other way, got a pass from James and made an acrobatic layup. (Passing the ball to Wade was about the only good thing LeBron did in Game 4).
You know you're having an impact on the game when you're affecting your opponents' eye movements.
"As you're going to the basket, normally you're looking for the big guy coming," Chandler said. With Wade, "you're looking for a guard because he does a great job of kind of coming in the lane, finding you late. He's one of the more athletic guys in the league."
While LeBron was hesitant on offense and easily deterred from driving by the Dallas double-teams and zone, Wade kept finding ways to get into the lane.
"His hesitation, he keeps you off balance," Chandler said. "He attacks you when you retreat. We did a good job of kind of containing him and forcing him into tough shots and shots I felt like they didn't want to take. Even still, he hit some amazing shots."
As if that weren't enough, Wade hand-delivered one of LeBron's three field goals, stealing the ball from Shawn Marion then flipping it ahead to LeBron for a breakaway dunk. James shouldn't need so much help.
I advised LeBron's critics to hit the brakes in Monday's column, but they have every right to go full speed ahead after that Game 4 performance. Eight points on 3-for-11 shooting is unacceptable for a superstar in an NBA Finals game. LeBron couldn't counter that we should focus on other things because, if you looked at the defensive end, you saw Marion and Jason Terry beating him off the dribble repeatedly.
Some people root for LeBron to fail because they see him as the embodiment of the pampered, self-centered athlete. But maybe LeBron's flaw is that he doesn't have enough ego. At least not as much as Wade, who had the belief that he could single-handedly take over these NBA Finals -- and, in the course of two games in Dallas, came within four points of doing it.
As the Finals have shown, even with LeBron James and Chris Bosh in Miami, it is still Dwyane Wade's show.