When LeBron says 'my guys,' he's no longer referring to Wade and Bosh
When LeBron James refers to his guys in the NBA Finals, he's no longer talking about Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
We know LeBron James will do it his way, will have an unwavering trust in his supporting cast. We know, too, that in this evenly matched NBA Finals, there's little chance of winning on the road without important contributions from each team's circle of stars.
And this is where LeBron's exquisite basketball instincts meet reality for the Miami Heat. When James speaks about his guys, his supporting cast and his shooters, he is no longer talking about the guys he came to Miami to team up with in the first place.
When James said after Game 2, "I will continue to find my shooters if they're open," he was referring to Ray Allen, Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers. This isn't supposition; Allen, Miller and Chalmers were the guys hitting the shots and making the plays when LeBron passed to them on Sunday night. If that's not good enough for you, James went so far as to mention them by name.
"My shooters just need a little bit of room," James said after Miami's 103-84 victory that evened the Finals at 1-1 heading to San Antonio. "Mike showed that, Ray showed that and Rio showed that tonight."
And that's what we all knew, right? That the possibility of a future in Miami with Mike, Ray and Rio was just too much for LeBron to resist in the summer of 2010.
"With the lineup that we had late in the third to the fourth -- me Rio, Ray, Bird [Chris Andersen] and Mike -- it spreads the floor," James said. "It spreads the floor for our attackers."
But unless I'm missing something and the Heat are allowed to put seven guys on the floor at a time, James is the only attacker. The other two alleged attackers were watching all of this from the bench.
Wade and Bosh had 30 points between them in Game 1, and 22 in Game 2. Wade's battle with a right knee injury has been well documented, and it's clearly limiting his athleticism and explosiveness and putting the brakes on his tendency to attack. Bosh seems lost. After playing such an important role as a release valve in Miami's offense during their championship run last year, he's floating around the perimeter trying to figure out where he belongs.
James' trust in his shooters, and their ability to deliver, was the key to Miami turning a four-point loss in Game 1 into a 19-point win in Game 2 when James had similar statistical production and the other members of his supposed Big Three had less. Bench production is essential for any successful playoff run, and if you have any doubts, consider this: Until late in the third quarter of Game 2 on Sunday night, Carmelo Anthony still held the NBA postseason lead in field-goal attempts with 310. James has finally passed him, two rounds after Anthony's Knicks were eliminated.
But while LeBron's guys -- basically, everyone not named Wade and Bosh -- can be relied upon to serve as his lethal wing men at home in this series, look no farther than the Spurs' struggles in Game 2 for the dangers of that recipe. The Spurs got nothing from their Big Three, their stars, on Sunday night and it spelled doom. A perfect shooting night from Danny Green, stubborn defense from Kawhi Leonard and a couple of timely 3-pointers from Gary Neal weren't enough. Without something more from Wade or Bosh in the middle three games in Texas, it won't be enough for the Heat, either.
James went to Miami to ride to multiple championships with Wade and Bosh -- not guys named Mike, Ray, Bird and Rio. The Heat needed them at home in Game 2, and will need them again when the series almost certainly shifts back to Miami.
But starting on Tuesday night in San Antonio, LeBron needs "my guys" to be the guys they're supposed to be. He needs Wade to be Wade and Bosh to be Bosh -- or at least one of the two.
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