NBA Finals: Flash comes back as Heat even series 2-2
It didn’t make the paper because of deadlines but it made it here, we’ll be back with the usual fare later this morning.
SAN ANTONIO – The response was emphatic, a tour de force of aggressive defence and varied offence, a game for the ages, one to silence doubters for the moment, a true statement delivered.
For one night at least, the story of redemption was not about LeBron James, it was about Dwyane Wade and a momentary re-emergence as a force to be reckoned with.
When his team needed him the most and with the season basically hanging in the balance, Wade re-asserted himself, scoring 32 points and playing as a dervish all over the court as the Miami Heat evened the NBA final at two games apiece with a 109-93 win over the San Antonio Spurs.
Hampered by a sore knee and the cumulative toll of a long season on his 31-year-old body, Wade had barely been a factor in the first three games, fading in the second half of each, never scoring even 20 points, a star fading.
Thursday was a wonder, the 32 points, six steals, six rebounds, four assists and an impact from start to finish.
“That's what great players do, they show up in big games,” marveled San Antonio’s Tony Parker. “That's what he did. He played great.”
One measure of greatness is how a player responds when the occasion is dire; Wade had to know that no team had ever overcome a 3-1 deficit in a best of seven final and he and the other cohorts of Miami’s Big Three would not go down without a fight.
“He's a competitor, and every time he's down, he responds,” LeBron James said of Wade. “For him to go out there and play the way he played tonight, it was amazing. The six steals let me know he's very active both offensively and defensively.
“He went back in his bag today. He was Flash tonight. We needed every bit of it.”
And Wade knew it.
“I needed a game like this and my team needed a game like this,” said Wade. “It felt good, when you see the bal go through the basket you get more confident.
“It felt good to have a performance like this in this game, we needed it. To respond, that’s what you’re going to be judged as a man. I thought my team responded well and I responded well.”
James, who vowed to be better in Game 4 than he was in a miserable Game 3, was exactly that. He had 33 points – he hadn’t scored more than 20 in any of the first three games – and was his usual aggressive self. He attacked the Spurs, he attacked the basket, he attacked in transition, playing with the necessary power and force.
“I'm blessed to have, I guess, a next day,” said James. “I never went to college, so I never had to worry about if you lose the first one, then it's like ‘I don't have another opportunity.’
“And it's not saying I'm taking the game for granted, I just know there's a tomorrow. And I can't worry about what happened yesterday. And that's what I've been able to do.
“As bad as I played in Game 3, I put all the pressure on me to say I can't afford to play like that and hope for us to win, not at this level. So I was able to forget about it. It hurt. I watched the film. It hurt watching it. I didn't like the way I was playing. But I just came in with a whole new clean slate tonight, and like I said, I was blessed to be able to make a few plays to help us win.”
The Spurs were their own worst enemies for most of the night, committing 19 turnovers that led to 23 Miami points, the second time in this series that they kicked the ball around like it was radioactive.
“They turned up their intensity, as we knew they would, and they got a lot of hands on balls, and they turned them into open plays for them, which is what we kind of talked about, trying to keep them out of that open court where they're most effective,” said Tim Duncan.
They were faced with a great Miami defence that didn’t give them the same looks at the three-point line and while they got it close with about eight minutes to go, they faded fast.
Parker, playing with a strained hamstring, had 15 points in the first half and none in the second and looked weaker as the game progressed.
“I had great shots,” said Parker. “I missed two tear drops and the layup I was right there, couldn't get my lift.
They are doing the same thing on me since the beginning, very aggressive on pick and rolls, stuff like that. I just missed easy shots, and hopefully I'll get more healthy and I'll be better by Sunday.”