One of the Most Important Game 7’s in NBA History
Tonight at 8:30 pm eastern time, the defending champion Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers are going to take the court for the all important Game 7. Obviously what’s on the line is a trip to the NBA finals and a matchup against the San Antonio Spurs (Game 1 is June 6th on ABC). For the Indiana Pacers this game means a chance to pull of one of the greatest upsets in sports history and get to the Finals for only the second time in franchise history. It’s a chance for Paul George (a guy who’s made “the leap” by the way) to truly become an NBA superstar, it’s a chance for Roy Hibbert to lay claim to the “best big man in the game” title, hell it’s even a chance for Lance Stephenson to do more crazy stuff.
In the end, we know what is at stake for the Pacers, the proverbial underdogs, the David to Miami’s Goliath, and we kind of already do for Miami as well. It’s a chance for LeBron to make good on that “not 1, not 2, not 3…” statement and add on to one of the greatest runs in sports history. It’s a chance for Dwyane Wade to pick up his 3rd ring and maybe leap into the discussion of one of the greatest shooting guards ever, it’s a chance for the architect Pat Riley to prove once again that he is waaay smarter than everyone else (and has better hair to) and of course Eric Spoelstra get’s to add another ring to his mantle at age 42.
All of these things are obvious for Miami and Indiana, but the real question that everyone should be asking themselves is this. What is going to happen if the Miami Heat lose tonight? What happens if Wade and Bosh don’t show up again? What happens if LeBron isn’t superman?
After Game 5, LeBron made an interesting statement, saying he “went back to his Cleveland days”. Wait a minute? Cleveland days? I thought the whole point of the Decision was to avoid HAVING to into Cleveland mode. That’s what Bosh and Wade (the other 2/3 of THE BIG 3) are there for! In 6 games against Indiana, D.Wade is averaging 14 points, he’s only scored over 20 points in these playoffs once! Is he struggling with a knee injury? Yes definitely, he’s clearly hobbled, but it’s the playoffs, and you would expect a guy of his caliber to play a lot better than he has. This isn’t the 2011 Finals where LeBron disappeared and it was up to Wade to carry the team. Dwyane doesn’t even have to be the D.WADE that we all are familiar with. But you have to expect him to at least outplay Lance Stephenson and George Hill on a nightly basis. Hell Udonis Haslem, Chris Andersen, and Mario Chalmers have had more meaningful minutes.
Of course Chris Bosh also needs to do a lot better. For him it’s more of a matchup issue than anything. He isn’t equipped to handle guys like David West and Roy Hibbert on a nightly basis, and then still have enough energy to score on the other end. But Bosh (and Wade) as well have missed easy, wide-open jumpshots and layups. So have Ray Allen and Shane Battier (in the past 3 games these two sharp shooters have gone a combined 9-32). Basically this Miami Heat team is swiftly becoming Cleveland Cavaliers 2.0.
So what is going to happen if the Heat lose? Well you can believe that the Big 3 era is probably over before it ever really got started. That would mean 3 years together (2 Finals appearances) and only one title. It would mean going from a potential dynasty to one of the bigger disappointments in NBA history. With the new CBA in effect it’s going to be hard for the Heat management to keep Bosh, LeBron and Wade together without having to pay a hefty luxury tax. If I was a Heat fan i’m not sure if I would be happy with paying Bosh $19 million and Wade $18 million next year with the way they’ve been playing in this Pacers series. It means that the likelihood of LeBron opting out in 2014 and going somewhere else becomes extremely possible (cue Cleveland fans praying). But most importantly it would just be a waste. You’re talking one of the greatest teams of all time not winning a title? It can’t be seen as anything other than a huge failure. Mainly, an entire year of LeBron James in his prime gone down the drain with nothing to show for it. So when the two teams take the court tonight a trip to the NBA Finals isn’t the only thing at stake for this Heat team. They’re probably playing for the survival of this Big 3 era….Pressure much?