If someone told you Indiana would lead Miami 2-1 in the second round of the playoffs, you would question their basketball knowledge almost immediately.
Sadly, that is the reality for the Heat this season. With Chris Bosh out with an abdominal strain, many question how far this team can go. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are expected to lead the Heat, yet even that scenario has been deflated.
With Wade averaging 19.3 points on .310 percent shooting, the media has exploded, questioning if he is regressing at age 30, if he is injured or if the Big Three experiment is starting to fall apart.
The real reason for his offensive struggles is much simpler. His name is Paul George.
Coming into this series against Miami, it didn’t look like the Pacers possessed the defensive prowess to slow James, Wade and Bosh. So far they have done well, holding the Heat to just 81.6 points per contest. While this can certainly be attributed to Bosh missing the last two games, it can also settle on Dwyane Wade.
He is shooting a career-low .427 percent during the postseason. Taking into consideration he shot .506 against the Knicks, his play against Indiana is tarnishing his career averages. A media circus is frantically trying to find a reason for this, when the correct one is right in front of them.
Paul George, probably more renowned for his participation in the Dunk Contest, is a versatile defender. Despite playing shooting guard, he stands 6’8” and has a wingspan of 6’11”. In comparison to Wade’s 6’4” frame, it is the equivalent of LeBron James guarding Derrick Rose in last year’s playoffs.
As aforementioned, Wade is averaging an uncharacteristic 19.3 points on .310 percent shooting. He is taking 8.7 free-throw attempts per game, but has slowly regressed in that aspect.
In Games 1 and 2, Wade shot 14 and 10 attempts respectively. In Game 3, he received just two attempts, a clear indication that George is slowly adjusting to his defensive assignment. His fouls have dropped from six, to four, to one in this playoff series.
Whether the lack of contact or foul calls has frustrated Wade, his emotional outburst with Spoelstra on the bench is a sure sign George is in his head.
To further prove that George is in fact the reason for Wade’s problems, he has the highest plus/minus of the Pacers with 48 total. Even in their Game 1 loss, he went plus-5.
For those of you who might be unaware, plus/minus is a statistic used to measure the effectiveness of a player. What this means is that while George has been on the court, Indiana has scored 48 more points than Miami in those games.
Therefore, by slowing down Wade, the Pacers have been able to keep up and then advance past the Heat offensively. Wade has a plus/minus of minus-20, meaning the Heat have been outscored by that many points with him on the court.
To use the terms ‘case closed’ is seemingly cheap, but George is evidently the reason for Dwyane Wade’s offensive predicaments.
Unquestionably, the media enjoys a headline more than it does actual reasoning, but be sure to keep an eye on Paul George defending Wade: it is his defense that is the difference-maker in this series.