|D-Wade and LBJ are coming off a combined 70-point performance in Game 4 vs. Indiana. (Getty Images)|
MIAMI -- It's simple, but nonetheless amazing, math.
And it's the reason the Miami Heat have managed to forge a split of the first four games of a best-of-7 Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series against the Indiana Pacers.
The NBA might as well stand for Nothing But Arithmetic.
Here's a by-the-numbers overview of the series to this juncture: LeBron James has scored 32, 28, 22 and 40 points.
Here's another: James and Dwyane Wade have combined to score 61, 52, 27 and -- wait for it -- 70 points.
The Heat have won, lost, lost and won.
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My seventh-grade daughter could make an accurate pie-chart analysis of the trend.
But the deeper question is how heavy does the heavy lifting have to get for James -- with some assistance from Wade -- to carry the Heat past the Pacers in a series reduced to a best-of-3 format resuming Tuesday on Miami's home floor?
"I made a few plays," James said.
He wasn't very talkative, but, hey, maybe he was saving his strength. James, by the way, also has picked off 49 rebounds and handed out 22 assists.
James was especially forceful Sunday afternoon when the Heat pulled even in the series as he scored those 40 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and had nine assists, which led Wade to say, "I've played in this league for nine years, and I've seen some amazing things ... I'm used to not being the one in awe, [but] some of the things he does, I'm like, 'How did he just do that?' "
Not that Wade has been reduced to a spectator's role -- well, except for a miserable five-point outing in the Game 3 loss -- but it's easy to understand his message.
But can the Heat subdue the Pacers with James and Wade as a two-man band no matter how wonderful the music might be?
"We don't have to have our reserves score [big] points, but every night somebody has to emerge," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra explained.
It was Udonis Haslem who did so in Game 4 with 14 points, but Spoelstra has been confused enough in his search for an effective starting lineup that he has used four different ones -- thereby reconfiguring the composition of the bench and changing substitution patterns each time -- against the Pacers.
"We don't have to compare ourselves to anyone," Spoelstra said.
No, they don't.
And a case can be made, as Spoelstra said, that the Heat is learning "on the fly" how to play without Chris Bosh, who is out with an abdominal injury suffered in the first game of the series. The so-called Big Three -- James, Wade and Bosh -- has undergone meaningful subtraction.
There's no ideal method for the Heat to cope with the loss of Bosh, a missing big man, against a team as physical and as aggressive as Indiana.
So, the load has fallen even more dramatically to James and Wade.
"Everybody knows the ball is going to one of them most of the time, and they're still doing what they're doing," Haslem said. "It's pretty amazing."
But to expect James, in particular, to continue at his current pace against the Pacers is for the Heat to invite trouble. Wade said so.
"Obviously, you can't do that every night," Wade said, "but when other guys get their opportunities, like Udonis did, [they have] to make big shots. Obviously, with Chris out, a lot of the offense goes to me and LeBron, [but] when other opportunities come, I just want them to be ready for it and shoot it with confidence and understand we need timely baskets."
Mario Chalmers, who has had one big game in this series?
The broken and bent
The shooting-slump riddled
The simple math suggests otherwise.
It suggests 60 or more points in combination from James and Wade means a Miami victory, but anything less means trouble for the Heat.