LeBron James and Dwyane Wade received a rude awakening in their Game 2, 78-75, loss to the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday. The dynamic duo –who carried the Miami Heat to victory in Game 1– came to the realization that life without Chris Bosh isn’t so easy.
Combined, James and Wade scored 21 points in a spirited fourth-quarter comeback attempt. James had 10 points, six rebounds and three steals in the final period, while Wade chipped in 11 points. The athletic duo teamed up for nine of the Heat’s 11 assists and seven of Miami’s 10 steals as well. Despite their offensive prowess, they both came up short during the waning minutes of Game 2. LeBron missed a pair of free throws with 54.3 seconds left with the Heat down one, and D.Wade blew a layup with 16 seconds left that would’ve tied the game. Moments later, the Pacers celebrated stealing home-court advantage by evening the series at a game apiece.
D.Wade’s postseason shooting woes continued on Tuesday night. He shot a dismal 8-of-22 from the floor, bringing his playoff average on jumpers to 25 percent on 12-of-49 shots and 21 percent on 4-of-19 in the two games against the Pacers. Adversely, James’ stat line once again proved why he was recently crowned his third league MVP award. King James poured in another comprehensive performance finishing with 28 points, nine rebounds, five assists and six steals –only three players have ever hit those marks in the playoffs: Ewing in 1990, MJ in ’89 and “The Glove” Gary Payton in 2000. But despite his impressive outing, LeBron once again failed to deliver when it mattered most.
James went 4-for-8 from the free throw line in the final period –including the two misses down the stretch– and his last shot attempt came with 3:35 remaining in the game, which was a missed 3-pointer. While he was with the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron was the go-to-guy to close out games. According to ESPN Stats & Info, in playoff game-tying or go-ahead situations in the final 24 seconds of the fourth-quarter or OT, James took 11 of Cleveland’s 24 during his time there. In Miami, he’s only attempted 1 of those clutch shots, accounting for only 14.3 percent of the Heat’s field goal attempts in those situations. In order for the Heat to advance to the next round, LeBron has to challenge himself in pressured situations.
Granted, having to play extended minutes at power forward certainly took a tool on James. But for the super-athlete that has played –and defended– every position during the regular-season, there are no excuses for his lack of execution down the stretch. “You go, you practice them and you go to up the free throw line and you shoot them how you practice,” James, who is just 10-of-17 from the charity stripe in the final minute of one-possession games this season, told ESPN. “You hope for them to go in, but the last two didn’t go for me. You want to come through for your teammates. I’ll get the opportunity again.”
Miami was without Chris Bosh, who’s sidelined indefinitely –perhaps for the rest of the series, possibly longer if the Heat advance– after he strained a lower abdominal muscle in Game 1. Bosh’s presence was sorely missed. The Heat shot a dismal 35 percent from the field, were outrebounded by the Pacers 50-40, and besides James and Wade, no other Heat player scored more than five points. This was the first time in Heat franchise history that only two players scored more than five points in a game –regular-season or playoffs– and the just the fourth time in the shot clock era. At this point in the postseason, it’s imperative that someone else, other than the Big Three –or should I say the Big Two without Bosh– step up.
The Pacers outscored the Heat 28-14 in the third quarter, shooting 10-of-18 from the floor for 55.6 percent. Miami went just 3-of-17 for a woeful 17.6 percent in the period. Besides, James and Wades stellar fourth quarter performance, the rest of the Heat failed to score. When the Big Two went cold towards the end, Miami didn’t score in the final 2:41. Starting point guard Mario Chalmers missed a crucial 3-pointer in the waning seconds that would have tied and forced the game into over time. But instead Chalmers’ brick dropped the Heat to 1-for-16 from behind the arc on the night and 1-for-22 in the series.
Big Men Ronny Turiaf, Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem combined for only seven points and 12 rebounds. Sharp shooter Mike Miller went scoreless. And Shane Battier, who converted on Miami’s only 3-pointer, led the bench in scoring with five points. In the playoffs, that lack of production won’t cut it. And relying on James and Wade to carry the load will have Miami exiting the playoffs earlier than expected.
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