Heat-Pacers Game 2: Dwyane Wade steps up to help LeBron carry Heat

By Matt Moore | NBA writer

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For the second game in a row, Dwyane Wade carried the Heat. Twenty-three points on 10-of-16 shooting, five rebounds, and five assists in Game 2 as the Heat split the series 87-83. Wade was everywhere, again. This is the second monster game the Heat have gotten from a player who had a super-efficient season, but also missed 28 games due to rest and injuries.

LeBron James put the hammer down in the fourth quarter, but it was Wade who helped the Heat stay in striking distance, and Wade shared the load with James in the fourth, scoring 10 points, and adding two rebounds and two assists.

What's been impressive about Wade in these games is how he is finding space. He's not hesitating with the ball, holding it on the perimeter and letting the defense set. He's finding space off cuts, not just toward but away from the basket. His ability to find room in the mid-range area is huge for multiple reasons. One, he can't hit 3's. Two, his mid-range shots are often flowing movements to the elbow, continuing his shot through his natural movement. He doesn't pull up so much as drift through space continuing one fluid movement and splashing the ball through the bucket.

The Pacers are so focused on protecting the rim, and containing LeBron James, that Wade finds himself in single coverage. And when the Pacers defense tries to key in on the pick-and-roll game with James and Bosh, Wade is finding his way to the bucket. Wade was 6 of 7 at the rim in Game 2.

With that kind of shooting, and rebounds, and his playmaking, it forces the Pacers away from the Heat's primary threats. It's not that Wade is some sort of decoy. He's still obviously lethal. But to a degree the Pacers have to dare Wade to beat them night after night after night. In the first two games, he has.

The problem with Wade at this point in his career isn't his production on given nights; it's consistency, as I wrote about in last year's Finals. He has given the Heat two monster games, and helped the Heat stay within range in Game 2 with 13 points through the first three frames. But the Heat can't expect to get four from him. They're going to need to find ways to win without Wade carrying them. Wade's had a great season, and he's been efficient, but relying on him remains both lucrative and risky. Like Wade's defense for so long, both the Heat and the Pacers are having to gamble on Wade.

The Pacers are betting he can't keep killing them, and the Heat keep rolling the dice and raking the chips.

Dwyane Wade has carried the Heat in the first two games against Indiana. (USATSI)
Dwyane Wade carried Miami until the fourth vs. the Pacers. (USATSI)

 
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