This is how we all knew LeBron James could play, but haven’t seen since the Miami Heat’s Eastern Conference Finals series against the Indiana Pacers. No big deal. And, oh yeah, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh came to play in Game 4 of the NBA Finals as well.
The Heat’s Big Three combined for 85 points—James, Wade and Bosh scored 33, 32 and 20 points, respectively—in a 109-93 victory over the San Antonio Spurs. Coincidentally, this game marked the first time this series that any of the Heat players eclipsed the 20-point mark. Wow.
Don’t take this writer to be dismissive of James’ greatness when you consider what I had previously written about his NBA Finals exploits, but doubt in his so-called greatness certainly bubbles up to the surface when he repeatedly underperforms on the NBA Finals stage. LeBron James may have one ring that he earned last season against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but taken on the whole, James is still 1-for-2 when it comes to his attempts to earn a championship ring, and unless he and his Heat teammates bring the same fire they brought in Game 4, it’ll be 1-for-3.
But if Lebron continues to impose his will on the Spurs like he had in Game 4, then he is certainly building a case to turn the tide of this writer’s opinion in the opposite direction.
James, displaying willful disregard for the opposition, tore through the Spurs defense on multiple occasions. It certainly has been a while since James displayed such determination to exploit his size, speed and momentum as an advantage. Before Game 4, all that was on display were glimpses of strength and athleticism that make LeBron a force not to be reckoned with—in great part due to the active defense of Spurs Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and other bodies that were charged with the ultimate defensive assignment.
The stellar support provided by Wade and Bosh only made certain the impossibility of defending the Heat machine with its three-cylinder engine revving into overdrive. “When Bosh, Wade and James score the way they did tonight and shoot it the way they did tonight, a team is going to have a difficult time …,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.
The Spurs certainly did in Game 4. Missing was the myriad of three-point field goals that were key to previous San Antonio wins. And while Tim Duncan and Tony Parker netted their team 20 and 15 points, respectively, it was the play of Manu Ginobili, who only scored five points on 1-for-5 shooting, which could have proved to be the missing ingredient to victory.
After looking every bit like a player that is hobbled by injuries and likely past his basketball prime for most of this series up to this point, Wade exploded and showed that he hasn’t necessarily taken a backseat to LeBron’s game.
The question now going into Game 5 is whether or not this series will continue to wobble back and forth, with each team trading victories and unable to sustain momentum with two straight wins. Just when it appeared that the Heat switched into high gear with a Game 2 blowout victory, the Spurs returned the favor with an even bigger blowout win.
As it’s certain that the Spurs would have to win at least one game in Miami in order to take this championship series, the onus for a total victory is placed on the coaches of the teams. Will Popovich recalibrate the Spurs for Sunday to once again deflate the Heat momentum? Or will Eric Spoelstra map out an advantage by placing the Spurs into the unfamiliar territory of trailing in an NBA Finals series?
Sunday can’t come soon enough.