Prior to Game 4 of the 2013 NBA Finals Thursday night in San Antonio, Dwyane Wade had yet to look like the efficient player that had averaged 21.2 points, 5 rebounds and 5.1 assists during the regular season. As has been well documented, Wade’s been dealing with multiple bone bruises in his knee, something that has clearly limited his explosiveness and affected the lift on his jumper. It’s limited him so much, in fact, that he’s only scored 21 points twice this entire postseason (though one of those instances was in a crucial Game 7 win over Indiana).
In Game 4, however, Wade produced a vintage performance when the Heat needed it most. Down 2-1 to the San Antonio Spurs, the Heat couldn’t afford to lose Game 4, as no team has ever come back to win the NBA Finals after falling down 3-1. Led by Wade’s incredible night, the Heat made sure that wouldn’t happen, rolling the Spurs 109-93. As much as his offensive performance will be talked about in the upcoming days, it was Wade’s defense that sparked his (and Miami’s) game.
As a collective unit, the Heat’s defense hadn’t played up to their standards, especially during Game 3. Wade’s game on that end of the floor had been particularly poor. Too often this series, Wade had been caught sleeping on defense and failed to close out on open three point shooters. To add to his defensive woes, in Games 1-3 combined, the Heat’s shooting guard had only grabbed four total rebounds.
For both Wade and the Heat, the lackluster defensive effort disappeared during Game 4. Wade in particular led the Heat’s defense, providing 6 steals, 6 rebounds and a block. These numbers don’t tell the entire story either, as Wade wreaked havoc all over the defensive end of the court. Sparked by Wade, the Heat’s defense forced 18 San Antonio turnovers, which allowed the Heat to get out in the open court for some easy baskets.
Wade’s aggression on the defensive end didn’t go unnoticed by his teammates.
“The six steals let me know that he’s very active both offensively and defensively. We needed every bit of him,” LeBron James said. “He was ’06 Flash tonight.”
For the first time this series, Wade was a consistent threat on the offensive end as well. Prior to Game 4, Wade had fallen into a pattern of playing decently in the first half and completely falling off in the second. In the second halves of Games 1-3, Wade had only managed to score 8 points combined.
In Game 4, Wade scored 32 points — including 18 in the second half — on 14-25 shooting and put the exclamation point on the game with a vintage transition dunk early in the fourth quarter. To go with the 32 points, Wade added 4 assists and didn’t commit a turnover, which helped the Heat find their offensive rhythm.
In the days leading up to Game 5 on Sunday, much of the talk will center on Wade’s resurgence and how San Antonio will adjust their defense. For the Spurs, though, there doesn’t seem to be much they can adjust. So far, San Antonio has sunk into the paint to prevent Wade and James from attacking the rim and have conceded the midrange jump shot, essentially daring the Heat to shoot open jumpers. If the Spurs extend their defense to contest those shots (something they haven’t done all year), it will open lanes for Miami to attack the rim, which San Antonio is trying to limit at all costs.
For the Heat, the focus will be on putting back-to-back wins together for the first time since Game 2 and 3 of the Chicago series. In order to do so, Miami will have to play with the same defensive intensity it played with in Game 4. Another game like this from Wade certainly wouldn’t hurt, either.
Previously from Charlie Crespo:
♦ As Always, the Future is Here and it’s Filled With Robots
♦ The Thing Quarterly: A Magazine Unlike Any Other
♦ Beertopia: Victory’s Headwaters Pale Ale
♦ The Nightmare Before Chris Bosh(mas)
♦ The Noblest of Experiments