The Miami Heat team that we saw play with such confidence and exuberance during the regular season was made to look average and lost in yesterday’s Game 3 loss in Indiana. An unfamiliar situation for the South Florida stars. Could this be attributed to the absence of power forward Chris Bosh? It might be argued that because of Bosh’s non-availability, the Heat lost their composure more importantly, their faith and confidence. But some of the blame is laid at Dwyane Wade’s feet.
In past years the Heat could always rely on Wade, but yesterday the All-Star guard struggled mightily in the loss. Zero points in the first half , (finishing with just 5 for the game on 2/13 FG’s) is not what Miami needed from one of its longest tenured players. What is more crucial is that Wade’s increasing frustration is becoming more evident as the series progresses. Late in the 4th quarter of Game 2, Wade committed a flagrant foul on Pacers point guard Darren Collision after he failed to get a whistle on a fast break play. Compounding that was his mental lapse during a timeout in Game 4 when he had to be separated by Udonis Haslem after he appeared to yell, “get out of my face” to his coach Erik Spoelstra, and all of a sudden a pattern is emerging.
This has been unquestionably the worst two-game stretch of D-Wade’s otherwise blessed and non-controversial professional career. More importantly, this could have a greater impact on this team. Wade is one of the Heat’s co-captains, a former Finals MVP – he should be leading by example. What message does this send to the rest of his team when he loses his composure like that?
The Heat is now LeBron’s team, with Bosh out indefinitely and Wade seemingly losing his game as he battles injury, the onus is now on James to lead this team much like he did with the Cavaliers for so many seasons.
From a tactical standpoint, the absence of Bosh is not merely replacing his 18ppg output. Miami have lost a 7’ footer who can attack the rim, and create more space for Lebron and Wade’s penetration. Also, Bosh’s rebounding is crucial for a team that already lacks size at the frontcourt positions.
Miami started Dexter Pittman in Game 3, then rotated Joel Anthony and Ronny Turiaf. A mixture of undersized and overmatched players when facing the likes of Indiana’s All-Star, Roy Hibbert (who grabbed 18 boards in Game 3) as the Pacers crushed Miami in rebounding, 52-36. A deficit like that doesn’t allow the Heat to get into their usual, more comfortable, fast-break game. The irony being that Miami, probably the NBA’s best fast-break team, was outscored in that category by the Pacers, 47-42. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Miami has failed to break 80-points in either one of their losses so far. Their main weapon of attack has been taken away from them.
The next 48-hours will be critical for the Heat, and especially Dwyane Wade. He has a chance to rest and hopefully rejuvenate for the must-win Game 4. How will D.Wade respond? He didn’t even show up in the post-game media conference after Game 3.
Will Wade and his Heat team pull through the confidence crisis and bounce back? After much talk about the Pacers celebration on Miami’s home floor, Wade failed to deliver in the clutch during yesterday’s game. He gets another chance on Sunday (US time) to prove whether it was just a bump in the road, or a precursor to darker days ahead for the Miami Heat.