With the threat of going back to Miami down 3-1 in their series versus the Indiana Pacers, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade did what superstars get paid to do. They willed their team to victory over a balanced Indiana team, proving that hero ball is fun and that two superstars playing to their potential are almost always greater than the sum of a collection of above-average parts.
Sometimes, the truth hurts. While the Pacers had taken control of the series against Miami in the wake of Chris Bosh’s absence, they were absolutely defenseless against the two-headed monster of Wade and James on Sunday afternoon.
With Pacers big man Roy Hibbert in foul trouble for the majority of the second half, the Heat duo turned things up in a big way. After Wade had just eight points in the first half, he found his rhythm in the second, as he and James combined to score 28 of the Heat's 30 third-quarter points.
James poured in 40 points, 18 rebounds, nine assists, two steals and two blocked shots in nearly 44 minutes of action. Early on, Erik Spoelstra said that James would have to play heavy minutes. He wasn’t lying. While James looked completely gassed for stretches, he did the opposite of shrink in the spotlight, standing tall and playing strong, making the Pacers look a step slower all night.
With Hibbert relegated to the bench, the Pacers were forced to go small, giving James the opportunity to attack the rim time and time again. In Games 2 and 3, Hibbert controlled the paint. Defensively thwarting the Heat from attacking the hoop, offensively going to work against the Heat big men who were sorely missing the savvy services of Bosh.
Wade righted himself in that second half and didn’t look back. His struggles have been a big part of this series. If he remains on track in Game 5 at AmericanAirlines Arena, the Pacers will have a problem. Wade finished with 30 points on 13-of-23 field goals, while grabbing nine boards and dishing six assists. With Wade and James focused on the glass, the Heat were able to outrebound Indiana 47 to 38. And of the 18 boards James claimed, six were offensive, while Indiana had eight offensive boards as a team.
The Heat were hungry coming off their Game 3 loss. Their stars were out for blood and were not settling for anything less than evening up this series. In this circumstance, all you can do is marvel at the brilliance of two of the best in the game while they’re feeling it. The Pacers have to hope that one of these two forgets how to play basketball again once they get back to Miami.
Pacers point guard Darren Collison was a bright spot for Indiana, finishing with 16 points on 6-of-7 field goals off the bench. But even the boost he was able to provide wasn’t anything compared to the heat (pun not intended) that Miami’s big guns brought.
While the underdog is always fun to root for, the performance of the Heat in Game 4 serves as a reminder that superstars—specifically superstars who have joined forces for these moments—usually get the last laugh over a team of solid role players who have consistently impressed in their overachieving.
Looking at the Pacers, outside of Collison, Danny Granger had 20 points but needed 18 shots to get them. Granger and David West are considered to be the superstars of Indiana, but Granger isn’t ever going to have a game like James, and West was nearly invisible Sunday afternoon, posting a quiet eight points and six rebounds in 28 minutes of action.
Love or hate the Heat, you can’t deny their dominance when both Wade and James are locked in. Can they stay locked in for the games ahead? That remains to be seen, but this game is what free agents will think of when it comes to choosing their next destination, or the conversation turns to giving up individual power for team success.
There’s a reason that super teams are hated. There’s also a reason why they exist. It’s better to have help—even if the script reads better when there’s only one hero.