By John Schmeelk
» More Columns
Is there any way we can write David Stern and have this NBA Finals extended to a nine game series? How about eleven? Can they just play until the lockout? As much as I want the Mavericks to win this series, I was even more excited after their win last night because it means I get to see two at least more of these games.
Every game has been competitive in the fourth quarter, reminding me a lot of how basketball was played in the late nineties. Both teams are treating every possession like they mean everything. The intensity and effort is out of this world. They are showing that no matter how differently these two teams are constructed they are very nearly on an identical competitive level. The Heat have three stars and a bunch of other guys that might contribute a little bit. The Mavericks, meanwhile, have one star and a bunch of good all-around players surrounding him.
The strength of the Heat’s formula is obvious. In a series where LeBron James and Chris Bosh have looked like anything but a superstars, Dwyane Wade has picked up the slack. Against the Bulls, LeBron James and Bosh filled the role of leading men, but in this Finals it is clearly Dwyane Wade. You almost get the feeling he was simply building up energy for the Finals as LeBron dominated Chicago.
After his Tyson Chandler block and layup on the other end last night, I tweeted this: “Dwyane Wade is a superhero. Holy Crap.” I couldn’t figure out any other way to say it. Watching Wade do these things is a little different than watching LeBron James dominate. LeBron is the most physically gifted athlete, perhaps in the world. He does things others can’t and makes his ridiculous speed and strength look routine. Wade on the other hand, is only 6’4, actually undersized for a shooting guard. He will be 30 next January, yet he makes plays that make your jaw drop. It comes down to his will, effort, and grit. As impressive as his block on Tyson Chandler was, his block of Jason Terry a few plays later might have been even better, coming all the way from the opposite baseline to deflect the shot. Quite simply, it looks like he is trying harder than everyone else. Watching him is a pleasure.
In this series, Wade is averaging 30 points a game, an astounding eight rebounds, four assists, and more than a steal and a block per game. He is shooting 59% from the field, a number made even more impressive by the high degree of difficulty of many of his shots. Offensively, he swoops between multiple defenders for layups, hits contested jump shots, and gets to the free throw line. With Bosh and LeBron not having great series, he has put the Heat on his back and is playing like a MVP. His one bad moment came on the final play of the game, dropping the inbounds pass with only seconds left. It marred an otherwise superhuman effort.
I know a lot of people want to come after LeBron James for not doing more in this series. Obviously, he needed to do more in Game Four, shooting just eleven shots and getting to the line four times. But with Wade playing like a MVP, the ball should be in his hands most of the time and LeBron is doing the right thing for the team by sliding in behind his teammate. It’s about winning a championship, not showing you are the best player on the floor. And frankly, even if LeBron tried to be, I don’t think he could be better than Dwyane Wade is right now. There will be a game when Wade doesn’t play well and LeBron will have his moment. It’s coming, and we’ll see if LeBron can come through when it does.
As for Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki stands alone as their only star, doing everything he can at the ends of these games. I regularly mocked Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan after their “flu” games, so I’m not going to sit here and throw bouquets at Dirk. If you play, you play, and Dirk once again made the play when it needed to be made at the end of the game. The difference in the game, however, was how much help he got.
Jason Terry played his best game of the series, hitting big shots and making big plays in the fourth quarter. (his brainy play to let the Kidd pass bounce once to avoid a backcourt violation on the Mavericks last possession was genius) Shawn Marion bounced back from a subpar Game Three and put in sixteen. DeShawn Stevenson made open threes and finished with eleven. Tyson Chandler finished around the basket and totaled thirteen points and sixteen rebounds. JJ Barea played slightly better, getting nine points, though he still missed a lot of shots he would normally make. Starting him was a smart decision by Rick Carlisle. The team needed a spark offensively and Barea is normally the guy to give it to them. The team played noticeably faster with him in the game. If he can have a breakout game in this series, it could make the difference between a Dallas championship and going home empty handed.
It’s now a three game series, with the last two being played in Miami. Obviously, Dallas needs to win Game Five badly, so they don’t have to win two straight in the Heat’s home arena. Enjoy these final games, NBA fans, they might be the last ones you will see in a while.
You can follow me on twitter throughout the NBA Finals and then the NBA Draft at: http://twitter.com/#!/Schmeelk.
Tomorrow check out WFAN.com where we’ll check out the trends in the Finals and see if we can figure out how this amazing series is going to end.