Posted May 16 2012 10:00AM
MIAMI -- On a night when two healthy superstars missed five free throws and nine shots in the fourth quarter, none more fatal than a bunny with about 17 seconds left, surely you know what Dwyane Wade and LeBron James missed most.
Or, who they missed.
But Chris Bosh isn't walking through that door holding his stomach anytime soon, so the burden on Wade and James is heavier than the cinder blocks James shot-putted from the line late in Game 2.
The series is 1-1 but the numbers that must concern the Heat now against the Pacers is 2-on-5. That's what they're playing and that's how it looked Tuesday, with James and Wade taking on the Pacers in the closing moments of a tight game.
James and Wade scored 28 and 24 points, respectively. Nobody else managed six. That looks like a typo.
"Those two guys scored a lot," said the Pacers' Danny Granger, "and we stopped everybody else."
Without Bosh, the margin for error for those two is suddenly thinner than LeBron's hairline. When they're not sharp, and they weren't for much of the 78-75 loss, what choice do they really have?
Keep shooting? We saw how that didn't work, especially with the Pacers throwing multiple bodies at them.
Throw the ball to Udonis Haslem? Well, offensively at least, he hasn't been the same since he removed his cornrows.
How about Joel Anthony? Pretty-please, beg the Pacers, especially after Anthony missed all five shots, most from point-blank distance, on pick and rolls.
Who else? Ronny Turiaf, who replaced Bosh in the starting lineup is offensively challenged, too, and his energy is being spent on defense and the glass.
Surely you've heard how some players want the ball in big moments. Well, Shane Battier isn't one of them; he ran away from it all night.
Anyone else? Not Mike "0-for-3" Miller or Mario Chalmers, who are supposed to be 3-point threats, except the Heat missed 15 of 16 from deep. Surprisingly, Chalmers took the game-tying 3-point attempt at the buzzer. He missed, completing a dreadful 2-for-10 shooting performance.
These are the "collective" replacements for Bosh that coach Erik Spoelstra spoke glowingly about, players who can't duplicate Bosh. Or even come close. And here's why: There's a respect factor that Bosh carried and one the Pacers really don't have for anyone trying to fill in for him.
"Chris is missed," Wade said. "No doubt about it. Our team is set up for him to be in there. It's his presence, his scoring ability. Anytime he's on the court, you have to be aware of where he is."
Wade said he and James must "do a better job of trying to get these guys involved" but how much better can you do than get open looks for teammates who miss them? The Pacers are forcing Wade and James to pass and dare their teammates to do something they're uncomfortable doing. And that strategy will follow this series to Indianapolis for Games 3 and 4 and beyond.
For his part, James did miss crucial free throws in the final two minutes, and while that's certainly not unusual for him, perhaps his legs were weary. After all, with his teammates missing shots and allowing the Pacers to lead by 11, he didn't sit the second half.
"I wish I could've gotten him a minute or two in the fourth quarter, but because of the hole we dug ourselves, I couldn't do it," Spoelstra said.
Wade had no lift when he attacked the rim and blew the layup that would've given Miami the lead. And that was about the cleanest look he had the entire fourth quarter, the Pacers wisely realizing nobody on the Heat was willing or able to be a Plan C.
And so James and Wade will need to be at MVP-level to swing this series in Miami's favor again. Scary thing is, they're capable of doing that. But it'll cost them a chunk of flesh, or at least one of their lungs, with the Pacers' defense hell-bent on challenging anyone except those two to beat them.
"One of us has to step up," Chalmers said. "It's something we're working on. It's something that's going to happen next game."
Well, if someone on the Heat other than James or Wade deliver a massive game, it'll be out of character. Nobody in the supporting cast is anywhere near an All-Star, some are past their prime, others are nothing more than obedient role players who set picks for James and Wade, then get out of the way.
And suddenly, they're supposed to knock down jumpers and attack the rim, like Bosh? OK, sure.
"We need everyone," James said, sounding the all-hands-on-deck alarm.
Realistically, though, Miami needs a near-perfect LeBron and Wade.
They're the only two players capable of compensating for the 17 points and nine rebounds lost when Bosh suffered an abdominal strain, likely knocking him out for the series. The Pacers are too deep and too well-coached to allow for anything else. If you threw the two rosters together, minus Bosh, and held a draft, the first two chosen would come from Miami, and that's why the Heat remain the favorite in this series. They own the only superstars on the floor. But the next six or seven would come from Indiana.
Therefore, there's an obvious issue here for the Heat.
They miss Chris.
Sounds like a holiday in spring for Indiana.
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