Instead, those fortunate breaks for Miami in the first game of this hotly contested series mean that the Heat’s embarrassing91-77 loss to the fearless young Pacers merely set up a Game 7.
With a victory, James, Wade and Bosh can hold off such conversations for at least another two weeks and provide more justification for their controversial decisions to join forces in an attempt to win multiple titles. But the troubling disappearance of Bosh and Wade in the past three games, and James’s obligatory reversion to his “Cleveland days,” has raised doubts about Miami’s quest to earn a third straight trip to the NBA Finals.
“I probably will not be able to relax until the game starts,” James said. “This is the position we’re in and those guys as professionals, as champions, we’ll figure it out. And me as the leader, I’ll have to help them figure it out.”
Getting three all-star players to coexist and sacrifice has always been a challenge for Miami. James was often too deferential in the first season, which resulted in the Heat losing to Dallas in the Finals two years ago. Wade stepped aside to let James take control last season, and Miami dusted off Oklahoma City in five games. The trio worked in unison until matching up against a relentless Indiana team that can have a star-turning outing for any member of its starting five. Now, Wade is hurting and out of rhythm, Bosh is lost and low on confidence and James feels compelled to carry the team alone.
If the Heat can’t resolve its problems, David Stern’s last NBA Finals as commissioner would otherwise feature a matchup between former ABA teams in small markets, San Antonio and Indiana, that hardcore basketball junkies would love but casual fans would largely ignore.
James has been in three Game 7s in his NBA career, losing his first two as a member of the Cavaliers and claiming his first victory last year with Miami in the conference finals against Boston. But last season, the Heat arrived in Miami for the decisive game riding the momentum of a legendary performance from James, who was accompanied by two healthy and competent running mates.
Against Indiana, Bosh and Wade have mostly been running and hiding as both contend with the Pacers’ league-best defense, respective injuries and other unexplained setbacks. Since the $35 million duo combined for 35 points in Miami’s resounding 114-96 win in Game 3, Bosh and Wade have scored a total of 55 points on 16-of-55 shooting and led Coach Erik Spoelstra to look elsewhere to find help for James, the four-time league most valuable player.