Seven days ago, the Miami Heat were blown away in Game 3, its offense was a mess and its two superstars had completely disappeared against the Pacers in the second half of a crucial playoff game. Wade hit rock bottom, LeBron couldn't do enough to change their fortunes, Chris Bosh wasn't walking through that door and ... yeah, The Heatles were in trouble.
You don't have to root for the Miami Heat, but you have to respect what they've done in the past week.
A week after the worst playoff game of his career, Wade had 41 points and 10 rebounds Thursday night, ripping Indiana's heart out with a trademark mix of floaters, jumpers, and fearless finishes at the rim. LeBron was LeBron -- 27, 7, and 6 -- and for all the doubts about his ability in the clutch, he barreled his way to two lay-ups late that put the game out of reach with a minute left, and then added a long jumper just for good measure. Together they were unstoppable.
LeBron and Wade scored 197 points over the past three games, and for at least a week, the Heat's two superstars became the lethal wrecking ball of awesome we expected when they first got together last year. It's a reminder of something that's easy to forget: when it works, the Miami Heat are nothing less than the most terrifying team in the league.
There were two moments in Game 6 where you knew Indiana was in trouble.
- With the Pacers clawing back late in the fourth, Dwyane Wade gathered the ball at midcourt. He got a screen at the top of key, and promptly exploded in between two Pacers and into the lane, where he met two more Pacers at the rim, absorbed contact, and layed it in. Three-point play, an eight-point lead becomes 11, and ... game over.
- This was late in the third quarter, when LeBron dumped it to Wade on the baseline. He had George Hill defending him on an iso play. Wade faked the drive, pump-faked, then launched a fadeaway. Hill saw it the whole way and was right up against Wade as he launched it. If anything it should've been a foul. It wasn't, but the shot went in anyway.
In either case, there was nothing the Pacers could do. They played the right defense, it's just ... sometimes guys are so good that all you can do is shake your head. It reminds me of the old Michael Lewis feature from the New York Times a few years ago, where he talks about Shane Battier and playing the percentages against Kobe:
"With most guys, Shane can kick them from their good zone to bad zone, but with Kobe you’re just picking your poison. It’s the epitome of, Which way do you want to die?" ... Even when the shots dropped, they came from the places on the court where the Rockets’ front office didn’t mind seeing them drop. "That’s all you can do," Hinkie said, after Bryant sank an 18-footer.
In the NBA, the best offense ALWAYS beats the best defense. That's what Wade and James can do, and that's why the Heat are so scary. There are maybe seven or eight guys in the league who can play like this for entire games, and Miami has two of them. You can play the percentages and defend them well, but if they happen to feeling superhuman on a given night, you're probably out of luck.
Isn't that what happened to the Pacers? They ran out of luck. After everything hit rock bottom for Miami in Game 3, the Heat role players started hitting threes again, their superstars started playing like superstars, and suddenly Miami didn't miss Chris Bosh as much.
"Chris Bosh is an awesome basketball player," Frank Vogel told the media afterward, "But when he goes down, that just means more touches for LeBron and Wade. That's not exactly an advantage."
Seven days after the whole world was pointing to Bosh's injury and reading Miami's last rites, that quote is just incredible. Also: Totally true over the past three games.
And for basketball fans, this is a good thing. I'm glad the Heat are back. You never want to have LESS Hall of Famers in play in the NBA Playoffs. It's more fun when the Heat are around, and if they're the villains, it's more fun when they can actually make you shudder.
Miami's gonna need Bosh eventually, especially if it ends up in the Finals against San Antonio or Oklahoma City. But if the Celtics were the favorites in the East last week, the baton's been passed back to Miami now. Avery Bradley's injury changes everything for Boston, and it still has to take care of the Sixers Saturday night to even get to Miami. Meanwhile, now that Miami's atrocious offense without Bosh has looked so much better the past three games, it's hard to count them out against anyone, let alone the injured, wheezing Celtics or a 76ers team they've absolutely destroyed over the past two seasons. We'll see.
For now, we can talk about Dwyane Wade's outfit. And yeah the pants were ridiculous, but we've all worn ridiculous pants at one point or another. God knows Russell Westbrook's worn worse. But as @Sportspickle pointed out, let's not forget about the wrist scarf (?) he's wearing right here.
Pink pants are one thing, but there are just so many questions here. Did he buy that scarf as a pocket square and then realize his shirt had no pockets? Was it a gift from Kanye that he wore out of guilt? Are wrist scarves the new jumpoff? Is it a handkerchief? Does D-Wade have bad allergies? Is this some sort of viral promotion for his fashion documentary? Which ... By the way, the trailer for that fashion documentary is still the absolute greatest. Sample:
Interviewer: "What do you like to consider your style?"
Wade: "I'm a rockstar."
Elsewhere: "I felt like Jack Nickalus sittin' courtside, watchin the fashion show." It's all of Hansel's scenes in Zoolander edited down to a three-minute clip starring an NBA superstar. Just the best.
Anyway, we've gotten off track, but the point is this: the playoffs have been pretty awful so far. We've seen injuries all over the league, contenders pulling up lame, dynasties falling apart. ... Scoring's been down across the board, and we've suffered through lots of ugly basketball.
But after Thursday there's actually good news: The Miami Heat are still the Miami Heat. As terrifying and ridiculous as ever, and not going away anytime soon. Thank God. Wrist scarves for everyone!