Game 6 loss shows Heat need more than LeBron James
JUN 02, 2013 2:01a ET
LeBron James lately has had to pick up extra slack from those who had been members of a Miami Heat Big Three. But nobody figured it could get as bad as it did at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
James put up a game-high 29 points, but nobody else on the Heat had more than 10. The result was a 91-77 loss to the Indiana Pacers that tied the Eastern Conference finals at 3-3.
Game 7 will be Monday at AmericanAirlines. Wade and Bosh vow to show up, but who knows if they can even come close to resembling their old selves.
Wade, the bone bruise on his right knee obviously hampering him greatly, managed just 10 points on 3 of 11 shooting. Bosh, his sprained right ankle likely giving him more trouble than he will admit and continuing to be dominated by opposing center Roy Hibbert, managed just five points on 1 of 8 marksmanship.
The combined 15 points is the lowest total Wade and Bosh have had since joining forces along with James before the 2010-11 season. It sure was a bad time for it.
If Miami loses Monday, it would be an epic collapse. The Heat had gone 66-16 during the regular season, and their 41-2 stretch from Feb. 3 through a first-round sweep over Milwaukee was the greatest run of that length in NBA history.
“It’s all on us,’’ Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the struggles of Wade and Bosh. “They’re our brothers. We’re all behind them. If anything, it’s on me. I got to find ways to get those guys comfortable in areas where they can be aggressive, and that will be my focus (for Game 7).’’
While it’s admirable for Spoelstra to take blame, the focus really will be Wade and Bosh coming up with something. They know they better step up Monday.
“We have to make shots,’’ Bosh said. “We just have to play better. There’s not really much you can say. I’m just really disappointed in myself. I’ve shown resolve my whole career, so I’m going to have to use it Monday …. I want to play better and I will play better and have to play better in Game 7. It’s that simple.’’
The 6-foot-11, 235-pound Bosh refused to use as an excuse the sprained ankle he suffered in the second half of Game 4. Then again, he was being crushed by the 7-foot-2, 275-pound Hibbert well before that, and it happened again Saturday. Hibbert had 24 points and 11 rebounds.
Bosh had four boards Saturday. Hey, at least that was higher than his series average coming in of 3.6.
Wade, who had talked at length Friday about the troubles with his knee, also refused to use his health as an excuse in Game 6. But it was sad at times Saturday to see the lack of explosiveness of the shooting guard, who has been one of the NBA’s best players over the past decade.
“We got to do a better job, all of us helping get each other involved in the game,’’ Wade said. “We got to do a good job of making sure me and Chris have opportunities to succeed through the game. So that’s something we’re going to have to look at as a team.’’
Some believe James can do it by himself. But he can’t always.
When Wade and Bosh were struggling to the tune of 17 combined points in Game 5, James went on a third-quarter tear. He scored 16 of his 30 points in the quarter as the Heat outscored the Pacers 30-13 en route to a 90-79 win at AmericanAirlines Arena.
But James at least had forward Udonis Haslem to help him. Haslem scored 10 of his 16 points in that third quarter and finished 8 of 9 from the field.
Haslem was paranormal Saturday, going scoreless in 16 minutes. But even though he also had shot 8 of 9 in a Game 3 win, he’s not somebody the Heat really can rely on offensively.
James also wasn’t fully on his game. He shot 10 of 21 for 47.6 percent, well below his seasonal number of 56.5. Opposing small forward Paul George, who shot 11 of 19 and led the Pacers with 28 points, outplayed him.
With the Heat trailing 77-68 with 4:18 left in the game, James got very upset after he banged into Hibbert on a drive and was called for an offensive foul. James went sprinting down the court in disbelief, going at near-Usain Bolt speed. He received a technical while Heat assistant coach David Fizdale also got one.
“I had to run down the court to stop from being kicked out,’’ said James, afraid of what he might say. “I thought it was a pretty bad call. I don’t complain about calls too much. I thought me and Hibbert met at the mountaintop. I didn’t throw an elbow. Basically, I went straight up.’’
Yes, the Heat had cut a 17-point third-quarter deficit to 72-68 at one point. But the Pacers had reasserted their dominance by the time of James’ foul. Indiana, which outrebounded a Miami team 53-33 that didn't have suspended center Chris Andersen, was back to beating up the Heat.
If James really wants to be mad about something, it should be that he’s getting little help. Perhaps James, who yelled at his teammates at halftime of Game 5 when the Heat trailed 44-40, needs to have another tirade.
“I believe in my teammates,’’ James said after Game 6 when asked about Wade and Bosh. “They are struggling right now, obviously. So they got another opportunity on Monday, and I look forward to the challenge. I know they do as well.’’
Wade and Bosh need to find some way to step up. If not, it could be a stunning fall for them from regular-season All-Stars to playoff also-rans.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson.