INDIANAPOLIS — LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined for 70 points in a captivating and hypnotic performance that left you gushing and the Pacers gasping. It was tag-team basketball at its finest, and it sucked all the suspense from an East semifinal that was turning disastrous by the day for Miami.
And yet: Is this what it’s going to take to beat the Pacers, and then the next team if the Heat advance, and the next?
The short and truthful answer is: Yes. Those two played at an MVP level to keep the Heat from collapsing in their best-of-seven series, which now returns to Miami 2-2. It was a steady and deliberate two-man torture, at times entertaining, at times awe-inspiring, at times breathless. They hooked up for dunks, give-and-goes, fast-break buckets and when the situation called for it, went solo on the Pacers. It was two much for Indiana to handle, an effort that perhaps only they can give.
“They came in with a certain mindset,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
At one stretch, LeBron Wade scored 38 straight points, including the first 28 in the second half, where Miami trailed by 10 before they grabbed Game 4 by the throat. LeBron also chipped in 18 rebounds and finished one assist shy of a triple double. Wade broke free from a career-low funk that lasted the previous five quarters, scoring 22 of his 30 in the second half. Double destruction, double dominance.
They did have help, for the first time this series. Udonis Haslem, with stitches and a patch above his right eye, dropped four jumpers in the fourth quarter and made the Pacers’ defense pay for disrespecting him. And while those points were indeed important, this was a Wade and LeBron production, pure and simple.
“It was our ability to get out on the open floor and feed off each other,” Wade said. “That’s beautiful basketball for Miami.”
What you saw wasn’t totally unexpected. LeBron is the league MVP. Wade is a top-five or 10 player. The question for Miami, and an important one, is how long can it keep this up? Can Wade’s body remain intact at this pace? Will LeBron need oxygen midway through the fourth quarter on Tuesday? Because neither player can afford a lapse offensively, not with Chris Bosh out, not with getting mostly depressing results from the supporting cast (Haslem’s Game 4 and Mario Chalmers‘ Game 3 being the exception).
The playoffs can be a long and steady grind that pushes bodies to the limit and makes great demands of stars. The Heat still have two, even without Bosh, and while that’s two more than the Pacers have, LeBron and Wade must each be at their sharpest. One needs the other, not just for one game, but for every game. They handle the ball, shoot it, rebound it and defend. That’s plenty to ask, especially against a physical Indiana team that will keep throwing extra bodies their way.
“You are not always going to be able to dominate a game,” said Spoelstra.
For Miami to go very far in this series, or in the postseason, does LeBron Wade really have a choice?