LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, And The Miami Machine Finally Closing In Crunch Time

MIAMI, FL - MAY 31: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat reacts in the fourth quarter while taking on the Dallas Mavericks in Game One of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on May 31, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The Miami Heat took Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night, and like they've done all playoffs long, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade carried the Heat in crunch time. And while Miami has it all figured out, Dirk and the Mavericks are searching for answers.

Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks pushed for three quarters in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, but in the fourth, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade pulled away, just like they've been doing all playoffs long. There's a theme developing here. You can hate the Miami Heat, but you have to respect them. Fear them, even.

Teams have proven they can play with the Miami Heat -- the Celtics, Bulls, and even 76ers all played them close -- and if maybe things would have been different in Game 1 if Dallas had gotten more help from the bench they've depend on all playoffs long (Jason Terry, Peja Stojakovic, and J.J. Barea were a combined 4-21). The series isn't over, and Dallas could change all this in Game 2.But so far, nobody's been able to hang with Miami in crunch time. It's kind of unbelievable.

Back in March, if you told an NBA fan that the Heat would evolve into the scariest crunch time team since Jordan and the Bulls, it would have sounded like some pathetic Heat message board. Like, "Dont listn 2 HATERZ people, LEBRON, and D-WADE r BETTER than Pippen-MJ!"


Complete Coverage Of Miami's NBA Finals Game 1 Win

Three months ago, Miami had just lost to New York, Orlando, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and twice to the Chicago Bulls. If this was going to be the unstoppable machine that killed NBA contenders for the next five years, they weren't exactly hitting on all cylinders.

Fast forward to Game 1 of the NBA Finals, after LeBron James and Dwyane Wade blitzed the Mavs in the fourth, and LeBron can literally say "I told ya so" to all his critics. That's basically what this is.

"We always said we would figure it out," LeBron told reporters who spent most of the regular season doubting Miami. "We have guys that have closed games before. We just had to figure out how to do it together. We’ve done it by ourselves. Those pitfalls early in the season have helped us to get where we are now in the postseason."

Maybe that's true, and the struggles are what changed everything for Miami. But I think the truth is closer to this -- LeBron James is in a zone like he's never been in his entire career, and Dwyane Wade has a knack for hitting big shots that makes him an absolute terror as a second option. Because LeBron's shooting so well right now and Wade's such a clutch shooter naturally, it's less like Jordan and Pippen than Jordan passing to another Jordan.

We've always said that when LeBron hits jump shots, he's the most unstoppable player in basketball. So what's really changed in these playoffs? He's hitting jump shots. Maybe this is how the rest of his career will play out, or maybe he's just getting hot at the best possible time, but whether it's step back 20-footers, deadly fadeaways, or dead-eye threes, LeBron's hitting 'em all right now. And that frees him up for dunks like this.

As for Wade, it's almost more incredible. D-Wade's not going to be a superhero for that much longer. He's banged up now, and after battering into defenses for the first seven years of his career, it's only a matter of time before the wear and tear catches up. But even as he's been limited for long stretches of playoff games, he's every bit as effective in crunch time.

It was Wade's four-point play vs. Chicago last week that gave Miami's comeback life in Game 5, and it was his three last night that killed the Mavericks for good. In other words, Wade's proven over and over again that he's the same player that carried the Heat to a title in 2006. Even as wear and tear rears its ugly head, he can still rise to the occasion like all the great ones.

So, put James and Wade together, couple it with Miami's suffocating defense, and there's just no way you're beating the Heat. As Mark Jackson babbled during Tuesday's game, "Batman and Robin or Robin and Batman." (Related: nobody ever says Robin and Batman... Not even Robin.) He's still right, though. Wade and James or James and Wade--right now, it's clicking as well as any great team in NBA history. Ask Jordan and Pippen; the game is a lot more simple when you have great defense and two of the greatest players on earth.

They can go back-and-forth with teams over the first few quarters, and then in the end, they have an extra gear in the fourth quarter that other teams can't match.

When both teams tighten up the defense and the game becomes a war -- when every basket feels like it counts for two -- James and Wade are the ultimate weapons. They deserve all the credit, too. As James told the media, "We always said we'd figure it out." And they did.

Now, for Dallas and the whole damn league, figuring out how to stop them will be much harder.

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