INDIANAPOLIS — This whole Heat accompli thing — the long-held notion that LeBron and friends were going to frolic to a second straight NBA title — is on the precipice of needing some serious revision.
Unless this is who LeBron James and Miami are, unless they need to absolutely milk the drama for all its worth this time of year and adversity is always going to be their alarm clock, the alleged best basketball team in the world just severely damaged its hopes for a Heatpeat.
I don’t know at this juncture if Miami beats San Antonio even with the extra rest. But with what they had at stake, the Heat should have been even more desperate than Paul George, Roy Hibbert and all of Indiana staving off elimination Saturday night.
See, for the Heat this wasn’t merely about avoiding a Game 7 on its home court Monday night in Miami; if it could dispense of the Pacers in six games – instead of getting run over, 91-77, in this deafening building that pierced the inner eardrum like it was the 2000 Finals — Dwyane Wade’s right knee is afforded recuperation time before Miami faced San Antonio in Game 1 of the Finals on Thursday night.
Now we get a duct-taped, fading, tender-ligament all-star who managed just 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting. D-Wade is so banged up he is barely physically able to be part of LeBron’s supporting cast in a deciding game, which is three nights before someone has to play the Spurs.
Now we get an invisible 6-foot-11 perimeter player named Chris Bosh, suddenly afflicted with the confidence of an acne-covered, 14-year-old at his first school dance. Bosh made 1 of 8 shots and gathered four rebounds in 31 minutes. His shot is flat, almost hideous. He doesn’t hit the glass; he massages and caresses it. He didn’t look like a player who had another lousy game afterward in the locker room; he looked and sounded like his house had just been foreclosed on.
“I have to get back in the gym and work on my game,” Bosh said in an almost withdrawn way. “That’s about the only thing that will help me now. My rhythm seems off, it’s been like that the whole series. And now I have to go find it. I’ve got 48 hours to do that.”
Of course the Heat’s inability to get the job done wasn’t just its own fault. The Pacers had a lot to do with Miami’s demise and they don’t get the short shrift here. George was a money player in the biggest game of his career, dropping in long-range jumpers, breaking down a relentless Heat defense for 28 points, answering every Heat run with a bucket of his own.
Within a year, he is probably going to be one of the top five wing players in the game, right behind Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and a healthy Kobe Bryant. He is that good.
And Hibbert — 24 points, 11 boards, mean-mugging after yet another Pacer putback! Believe it. Big Roy, the Georgetown 18-year-old who couldn’t stay on a Stairmaster past the 5.0 setting because he was too uncoordinated, is now gangsta in the post.
He is nothing short of a godsend to the American center position, a job so many old-school observers believed had been farmed overseas forever.
Lance Stephenson had more rebounds (12) than LeBron and Bosh combined. George Hill and David West had very nice games with Indiana’s season in the balance.
I like these Pacers a lot. But even if they stun Miami for one of the great upsets in modern NBA history — I’d put it on par with the Warriors knocking out the Mavericks in the first round in 2007 and the Pistons beating the Lakers in the 2004 Finals — I still don’t see the Pacers beating the Spurs for the title. Not this year.
If you want to know who really won Saturday night, it was San Antonio.
They are going to get one of two teams on Thursday night: Indiana, a nice squad probably a year away, or Miami, which has gone from a legitimate Big Three to LeBron and the Extras in about a minute.
The truth: Because Wade doesn’t have real time to rest his beaten-down body and Bosh heal his beleaguered mind, because the Heat doesn’t have more than a couple of days to prepare for the Spurs provided they take Game 7, Tim Duncan is very likely to win his fifth title in 14 years.
Crazy, no, how many people skewered Gregg Popovich for sending Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Danny Green home early on a Southwest commercial flight earlier this season when TNT was about to showcase the Spurs-Heat on a Thursday night. Popovich has never got along with the league’s schedule-makers, and he was essentially thumbing his nose at a ridiculous grind that was taxing the bodies of his older players. It cost him $250,000, which is going to be chump change if David Stern actually presents the Spurs the trophy in a few weeks.
But then, it could be said Wade and Bosh took Saturday night off. They look like such shells of what they were last season.
It’s still an unbelievably tight series that could go either way. And there is nothing like the Heat when it turns up its defensive intensity and LeBron knows he is at the peak of his game every time he faces up his defender and fires.
But that team has shown up maybe twice in the postseason thus far, in Game 2 against the Bulls and Game 3 against the Pacers. Everything else has felt like a slog.
After Game 1 of this series, the Heat had won a phenomenal 46 of its past 49 games dating back to Feb. 3. But it has lost four of its past 11 games and three of its past six.
The champs aren’t just fallible, they’re imminently beatable. And if the Pacers can’t do it, the Spurs can accomplish the job in six or less, I’m afraid.
Yes, I was rooting for LeBron to win two in a row so the Tainted Legacy and Dynasty That Never Was Questions don’t begin anew. And he’s going to have to pull out a miracle at this point because it feels like on most possessions he’s almost going at it alone.
For previous columns by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.