Miami and Chicago featured the following amazing combination:
– a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference finals
– the two previous MVP’s in Derrick Rose and LeBron James
– two 30+ point scorers
– the first chance of the young season for either team to seize the upper hand in the East
Miami seized that upper hand, though somewhat reluctantly. After a dazzling display of fast break jams, ridiculous shots (at one point LeBron drained a three from the stands with less than 3 seconds on the shot clock) and fantastic finishes at the basket (Rose put on a clinic) – the end of the game was downright awful.
Holding the slimmest of leads, Miami proceeded to do everything they possibly could to give the game away. Chicago, on the other hand attempted to hand the victory to Miami as much as possible. In one sequence, Miami turned the ball over and then gave Chicago four straight offense rebounds and quadruple chances to score before they finally buried a shot. The worst, however, was saved for when the game was on the line.
Derrick Rose, who has yet to miss a free throw this season in the fourth quarter, choked twice with the chance to take the lead (and then tie). LeBron grabbed the rebound, was fouled and then proceeded to miss the two game clinching free throws. Chicago immediately threw the ball away and Miami was able to put the game away once and for all thanks to the heroic free throws of 1 for 6 from the field Mario Chalmers.
Sloppy, undisciplined ball. Is this type of play symptomatic of the post-lockout NBA, where a grueling regular season was simply cobbled together on an unending series of back to backs? The three best teams in the league (Thunder, Bulls, Heat) are all young enough to keep their legs under them despite the punishing grind. Older teams have played inconsistently at best and downright terribly at worst.
Yet how disappointed can one be with a game that featured LeBron (35 points) outdueling DRose (34 points) and Bosh (24 points) winning the battle with Boozer (10 points)? A small moment must be taken to acknowledge the enormous contributions of CB in the last few weeks. With Wade sitting, Bosh was absolutely superb – averaging 26 points a game and hitting the boards with more ferocity than he has ever displayed previously. More than anyone on the Heat, Bosh was affected deeply by the loss to Dallas. No one on the Heat – not even LeBron – wants a title more than Bosh. He appears ready to earn one.
As the Heat’s second best player.
DWade struggled through another poor contest (4 of 16) in which he could not hit anything. LeBron / Bosh barely missed (54% combined) while Wade seemingly could not hit anything. At one point he missed a layup and seemed nearly beside himself with frustration. He is off and has been all season, again begging the question: is something seriously wrong with him? Could the rumors of plantar fascitis be true?
At this point, LeBron and Bosh have been enough. That will not be true going forward – Wade, and his injury, may well be the most important issue for the Heat this season.
We’ll hold the discussion around LeBron’s fourth quarter choking for another time.