If Dwyane Wade’s Game 4 performance against the Chicago Bulls didn’t sadden you, then you haven’t been a fan of the Miami Heat for too long.
We have come to live with Wade usually being a sufferer of various ailments and injuries. They have have always been a part of him throughout his career, being the greatest representative of Wade’s ability to get to the rim and put his body on the line for the chance to score two points.
This year has been tougher than most, for Wade and the avid fans that will never give up hope that Dwyane is still capable of averaging big numbers on a consistent basis if given the chance, because the injuries are not healing.
This isn’t last year’s semifinals when Wade had his knee drained and turned out a 30-point Game 4 that followed up a five-point Game 3. Wade scored six points in Game 4 against Chicago and it will be a surprise to everyone, including Dwyane, if he can bust out a 30-point performance against this Bulls’ defense.
The injury to his knee isn’t structural, but Wade hasn’t looked this hampered in a long time.
And rest hasn’t appeared to help. Even as a primary member of the Miami’s maintenance program at the end of the regular season and getting a seat on the bench in Game 4 against the Milwaukee Bucks, Wade isn’t getting any better.
When do we expect him to get better if he hasn’t done so already? Does he improve against the defense of Indiana? The possibility of facing arguably the best perimeter defender in the league in Tony Allen in the NBA Finals?
Miami doesn’t need Dwyane at his best, or even close to average, against the Bucks or Bulls. But Miami is facing the high possibility of playing three of the league’s best defenses in consecutive series if they do end up facing off with the Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies.
The explosion that Wade utilizes to tear apart the opposition’s pick-and-roll defense simply isn’t there. He’s averaging 12 points per game on 44 percent shooting in the playoffs, nearly ten less points than his regular season average, and has been held below 10 points in a playoff game on two occasions, including a 1-for-12 performance in a Game 3 win over Milwaukee
Wade has gone for 20+ points once in the playoffs. He hasn’t gone for 30+ since March 4th when he tore up the vaunted defense of Luke Ridnour and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Miami could put an end to their series against the Bulls with a win at home on Wednesday. They could get more than a week of rest if the Pacers-Knicks series goes six games, but how much does that mean to Wade at this point?
The Heat could win the title with Wade averaging 12 points. It wouldn’t be easy, but it’s extremely manageable with the talent throughout the roster. Don’t forget that a sharpshooter in Mike Miller is waiting with bated breath for minutes.
Miami’s going to continue riding with Wade until the wheels fall off. There will be plenty of questions to answer in the 2014 offseason when Dwyane will likely opt-out. For now, however, the Heat have to worry about defending the title with the possibility of playing without the explosive ability of Wade.
Remember that thing I said about talent throughout the roster? Well, Miami should consider themselves fortunate they have a starting center who can easily assimilate into a new role as the Heat’s second scorer.
I’ve long asked the question: Why don’t the Heat give Chris Bosh more run as a scorer?
It’s mostly been because the Heat have no reason to when they’re winning 66 regular season games and running off 27-game winning streak. Why fix it if isn’t broken, right?
Well, I’ve also questioned if Miami can actually be better than the team they are now, even if Wade is healthy. Miami has been gifted with one of the league’s most dominant and versatile big men, yet Bosh is constantly going possessions without even touching the ball.
This year has been his statistical worse with the Heat as Bosh has been relegated more as a spot-up threat, with post-ups coming far and few between. Like everyone else on this team, Bosh is sacrificing and is probably giving up more than any of his teammates.
Per SynergySports, Bosh’s offense comes off of spot-up opportunities 33 percent of the time while his post-up percentage is down to 13 percent. He’s more reliant on being the pick-and-roll man (16 percent) and is almost being used more on cuts (11 percent) than he is on his post-ups.
As a result, Bosh had one of the best shooting seasons of any big man in NBA history. He shot 52 percent in the 16-25 foot range in the regular season and converted 48 percent of his jumpers overall.
His percentages have dropped in the postseason, but nothing to be worried about, especially if you take note of how efficient he has been from the perimeter over the past two games.
All the news has been surrounding LeBron James and Norris Cole, but Bosh has quietly outplayed Defensive Player of the Year candidate Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson. He went off for 20 points and 19 rebounds in Game 3, and followed it up with 14 points, 6 rebounds and 4 blocks in Game 4.
Noah was held to 1-of-6 shooting and Boozer was 3-of-14 in their Game 4 loss. Bosh has been doing it on defense as well as he has on offense. He and Chris Andersen have nine blocks apiece, no other player on the Heat or Bulls have more than three.
It’s his offense that’s the topic, though. When Bosh is getting fed and hitting his jumpers, the Heat are as close to unstoppable on offense as you can imagine because of how much the floor opens up with Chris’s 20-foot jumpers.
There are only so few players who can defend Bosh’s ability to hit the jumper and drive to the rim, with none of those players being featured on possible future opponents in teams like Indiana, Memphis or San Antonio.
The Bulls have been no different. Noah and Boozer have been abused by Bosh in Miami’s two road wins against Chicago because they lack the quickness needed to defend a versatile big like CB1.
With Wade ailing, why not give Bosh the enhanced role? Miami failed in a similar scenario in the 2011 Finals when they refused to give Bosh a larger role, despite LeBron James struggling.
The Heat is heavily reliant on having their offense generated up top by the ball-handlers. As you see with Bosh’s post-up attempts, Miami prefers to use him as a spot-up shooter that thrives off of the drives of Wade and James or the ball movement along the perimeter, which leaves him more dependent on his teammates.
Let Bosh continue to gain some confidence in his shot. The only way that happens is by giving him the green light to take the mid-range jumpers he thrives off, which will only open up the floor for his teammates, as well as himself when he’s getting big’s who are ignorant to guarding along the perimeter off of their feet.
It’s not the time to being doubting Dwyane Wade, because he is still the former Finals MVP who lives for moments like the postseason. However, there is the scarily real possibility he doesn’t become that former Finals MVP, which is going to require the Heat’s other member of the ‘Big Three’ to take in the spotlight.
They’re called the ‘Big Three’ for a reason. Each member of that club is designated as a member because they’re all capable of being the primary guy. It’s clear and evident that LeBron James is the best of the three, but who’s to say Bosh can’t be the second-best?
There is no player on this Heat team with the advantages Bosh possesses, and that includes the human freight train starting at small forward. He can be nearly unstoppable when he’s hitting the jumper and frustrating defenders into jumping on pump-fakes and fouling on drives.
Bosh is only attempting 11 field-goal attempts per game in the playoffs. With the possibility of Roy Hibbert and David West being opponents next round, and then possibly Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, Bosh’s role on this team is going to be magnified as he becomes the key player in key matchups.
Miami will have the opportunity to ease Bosh into the larger role starting as soon as Game 5 with the possibility Wade sits out.