Posted May 19 2012 7:12PM
INDIANAPOLIS -- The very next day, after the big blowup on the bench, Dwyane Wade was getting along fabulously with his coach. You know, laughing, swapping stories, hanging out, the whole bit, the kind of stuff friends do.
And this time Wade didn't tell a coach to stuff it when advice was given. Instead, Wade listened to what Tom Crean had to say.
"You've seen everything," Crean told Wade. "There's nothing you haven't been through, nothing you haven't seen before. And you know how to break out of it. Nobody can do it but you."
Wade nodded, took what his old coach at Marquette said to heart, and now we'll see if Wade takes it to the Pacers. The last five quarters of this East semifinal series have been, being honest here, a disaster for Wade in so many ways. He has lost his touch, his head, maybe even a measure of respect at least within the segment of the basketball community that found him the likable exception of a team that's universally despised.
But this being a series that's still salvageable, Wade can get it back. For himself. For his team. All it will take is a turnabout game on Sunday, where the Heat, trailing Indiana 2-1, can silence the alarms at least for a few days.
"I'm sure it will be a different game than any of the others in this series," said Wade, and for his sake, it'd better.
Following his confrontation with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, which was in heavy rotation on all the TV sports shows, Wade used an off-day to reconnect with Crean, now the coach at Indiana. Wade went to the Bloomington campus, spoke to the players, kicked it with Crean, got away from a series that's taken an ugly turn for him. When you blow a layup near the end of a game that cost your team a win, then follow up with five points in a blowout, you definitely need a break.
"It was great," said Wade. "A nice getaway."
He had a long talk with Crean, and you can almost guess the topics. The Spoelstra blowup. The ensuing public fallout. The bad performances. And the series, now tilting in the favor of the Pacers, whose confidence is swelling fast.
"Coach knows me from when I was 18 and an emotional kid," said Wade. "When I had my good days and my bad days he was there. It's always good to spend time with him and hear a different side."
Among other things, Crean told Wade not to neglect the other things that help win games when the shot's not falling. And mostly, Crean told Wade to listen to himself.
"I'm my own worst critic," said Wade. "I'm honest with myself."
Without Chris Bosh, Miami can't afford anything less than the best of Wade and also LeBron James. There's just too much drop-off in talent after those two for Miami to challenge a deep team like Indiana. Wade and James must be at an MVP level, and when one isn't, well, you saw what happened in Game 3.
The Pacers are frisky and they are feisty. David West reminded everyone that "we don't have guys on this team who are going to be pushed around."
Danny Granger, who's had minor scraps with James the last two games, was still puffing his chest Saturday, saying he isn't backing down from the MVP and that "it's going to be an intense battle and it's going to be a fight."
(LeBron: "I'm trying to play basketball. I'm not trying to scare anybody. I'm not in a horror movie. He's trying to hype himself up.")
And the ultimate insult: Lance Stephenson, Pacers benchwarmer, giving James the choke sign, prompting LeBron to say with a sinister giggle: "Lance? Lance Stephenson? You guys want me to quote about Lance Stephenson? Knock it off."
But while Miami's supporting cast resembles a horror movie, and Roy Hibbert is having his way in the middle for Indiana, this game will be about Wade and whether he can make amends for the last two. He downplayed any physical challenges ("You know I don't make any excuses") and said he's healthy enough to play extended minutes.
"I know what type of player he is," said Udonis Haslem. "We'll see Sunday. He doesn't play this way often and I don't think we'll see anything like it again."
The Pacers anticipate a better Wade, and so do his teammates, with LeBron reminding us how Wade is "top-five in the world" and that he won't bother giving him a pep talk to help Wade break free of his funk. Yes, we can all conclude Wade will be better, if only because there's only one way to go.
But, even if so, will that be enough? For this game, or this series?
"One thing you learn," said Wade, "is when things are good, they're not always going to be good. And when things are bad, that can turn around, too."
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