With the Heat-Spurs series tied at 2-2, an important question is likely on the minds of fans and pundits alike: can the Big Three continue their dominance in Game 5 against Tony Parker and Tim Duncan's team?
I dare to say yes, but only if Erik Spoelstra does these five things:
Give Dwyane Wade more touches
Make no mistake: when Wade plays well, the Heat rally behind their original franchise player. In a recent ESPN postgame interview, after the Indiana Pacers tied the series and forced a Game 7 in the 2013 NBA Playoffs, Wade summed it up by suggesting he needs a bigger role:
"We've got to do a good job of making sure me and Chris have our opportunities to succeed throughout the game. That's something we're going to have to look at as a team. We've got guys individually who want to play better. But we've got to try to help each other out in this locker room and not leave it up to the individual to self-will it."
While some media pundits were quick to suggest his comments were evidence of a Big Three tiff, I saw it in another way.
Oh sure, many Heat enthusiasts come to see LeBron James throw it down night after night and carry the torch as South Beach's "Chosen One." But that's not an effective strategy against this San Antonio Spurs team.
In Game 4, Wade got the touches he envisioned. He went 14-of-25 from the field and made all four attempts from the line. While his knees have sidelined him or limited his touches for most of the playoffs, injuries were not a problem in the last meeting. It was classic Dwyane Wade.
Bosh, who has been under fire for his lack of aggressiveness in the postseason, echoed Wade's earlier sentiments after practice Saturday. "I think we're unstoppable. When Dwyane plays like that everybody for one, feeds off it," Chris said.
Get Chris Bosh involved early and often in the paint
Speaking of Bosh, the Heat's big man, he must have grown tired of criticism from his family and the media. Wade was not the only sleeping bear to wake up from hibernation. Bosh posted his largest postgame performance against the Spurs in Game 4.
His double-double (20 points and 13 rebounds) proved the former Toronto Raptors star still has something left in the tank. While most of the attention has been on Wade's ailing knees, Bosh has been suffering silently with a tweaked ankle from Game 5 against the Pacers.
It held him to just over six points a game since then and kept him largely out of the paint. He's still well off his regular season numbers of 16.6 points, 6.8 boards, and 1.4 blocks over 32 minutes. But after the last game against the Spurs, along with Wade's Herculean efforts, the Big Three Bosh may be returning.
Focus less on shots from downtown
Arguably, the Ray Allen-Shane Battier experiment has run its course and Spoelstra has to change his strategy on offense.
According to NBA.com, in Game 4 Allen made one of his four attempts from downtown and Battier came up short on his single attempt.
In fact, Allen, who scored 14 points, relied heavily on floaters, midrange shots and points from the line by attacking the basket, not his legendary 3-pointers.
At the end of Thursday's Heat-Spurs game, I was convinced that it was the Heat's transition offense that got them back in the game. Sure, San Antonio suffered from a mess of turnovers (19), but that was a direct result of Miami's suffocating defense.
Trap, trap, trap
Of the Spurs' turnovers committed in Game 4, Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter and Tony Parker had three apiece.
Unlike Game 3 when the Heat's lack of contesting shots led to a Spurs 3-point fest, the defending champions resorted to traps and doubled key shooters on every possession. The result: turnover after turnover from the Spurs.
It's been a long time coming, but suddenly the Heat got the memo -- and their swag back -- in being more aggressive on both sides of the court.
The Spurs appeared caught off guard by a different Miami team in Game 4. Perhaps, it's the habit of complacency many teams get after punishing an adversary in a previous game.
San Antonio was at home again and likely depending on the momentum from the previous game without planning for a different plan of attack from the Heat. Talk about being blindsided.
Parker's hamstring injury likely accounted for his trio of turnovers and 15 points, which is well below his postseason average of 20.9 points.
To be fair, both teams are nursing injuries from key players. Having a strong bench makes a big difference.
Let the Big Three be the Big Three
Didn't you get the feeling LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade finally showed up to the big game?
Their combined 85 points of the team's total 109 was the kind of play that led them to an NBA Finals title in 2011. The challenge now is for Miami to somehow win back-to-back games. So far, they've won every other game with lopsided victories.
Undoubtedly, this streaky play is on their minds as they approach a critical road game against the Spurs. Up to this point, the focus has been on LeBron James, while Wade and Bosh either suffered from sore limbs or fewer touches.
Additionally, Spoelstra appeared to be leaning on a strategy from deep outside the paint with the Heat's sharpshooters, Shane Battier and Ray Allen. However, both players have been in a slump in the playoffs with 39.1 percent and 21.4 percent, respectively.
Surprisingly, Norris Cole has been the one coming up big; he's shooting 54.8 percent from long distance.
I'd argue that the shift back to ball movement among the Big Three is where the Heat need to be going into the final three games of the series.
LeBron James will get his numbers in the 2013 NBA Finals. But judging from the previous game, two other players still have enough left in the tank to give Miami its next championship.
Bradley is a professional writer, journalist, sportswriter, and avid fan of the NBA, NFL, NCAA, PGA and all things tennis. He keeps a watchful eye on Miami Heat developments.
- Sports & Recreation
- Dwyane Wade
- Miami Heat
- San Antonio Spurs
- LeBron James
- Chris Bosh
- Erik Spoelstra