In Game 4 of the emotional series between the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls, the defending champions emerged victorious by a score of 88-65. With the win, the Heat move to a 3-1 series lead, despite lacking any source of positive production from one of their brightest stars.
Fortunately, Dwyane Wade's struggles are a blessing in disguise for the Heat.
During Miami's Game 3 win, Wade finished with six points on 3-of-10 shooting from the field. Surprisingly, this was a continuation of what has been a postseason of lackluster production.
Wade had been averaging just 13.3 points entering this game.
Michael Wallace of ESPN.com reported that Wade was battling a sore right knee during Miami's first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks. This comes after a full season of the 2006 Finals MVP battling knee bruises and missing 13 games of regular-season action.
It appears as if the injury continues to hinder his performance during the playoffs.
Fortunately, there is a silver lining to Wade lacking any form of consistent scoring. In fact, Wade's shortcomings have set the tone for the Heat to repeat as champions.
For starters, the Heat have won seven of their first eight playoff games in spite of Wade's production.
So Far, So Good
The Miami Heat may be receiving less-than-ideal production from Dwyane Wade, but that hasn't stopped them from producing at an elite level. In fact, Miami has performed at a disappointing level team-wide.
Even still, they've won seven of their first eight playoff games.
Not only have the Heat won, but their defense has also been phenomenal and offset any offensive struggles. They've yet to allow more than 100 points and have let up at least 90 points in just three of their first eight games.
Entering Game 4, the Heat had been holding opponents to 86.6 percent shooting from the field.
It was more of the same in Game 4, as the Bulls managed to score just 65 points on 25.0 percent shooting from the field. Chicago was visibly exhausted due to injuries and a lack of depth, but the truth was in the numbers.
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Heat finished with 18 field goal inside the paint (18-25)...the Bulls finished with 19 total baskets2013-5-14 01:32:21
With Wade struggling on offense, they're still elite defensively, and he's a major reason for that truth.
The Rise of Chris Bosh
With Dwyane Wade failing to score on a consistent basis, the Miami Heat have seen the resurrection of big man Chris Bosh. After a statistically underwhelming regular season, Bosh has reminded us why he's one of the better big men in the league.
Such was on display during Game 3, when Bosh tallied 20 points and 19 rebounds in a 104-94 road win.
In Game 4, it was more of the efficient same, as Bosh tallied 14 points, six rebounds and four blocks on 7-of-10 shooting. This is the key for Miami, as they will not win the NBA championship if Bosh does not produce on both ends of the floor.
Their future matchups are the reason why.
Assuming the Heat draw the Indiana Pacers, they'll be tasked with scoring against an elite defensive team that has experienced postseason success against Miami. With another year under their belt and Paul George's star emergence, the likes of David West and Roy Hibbert create a force to be reckoned with.
The same can be said for the New York Knicks, where Tyson Chandler has the ultimate advantage over Miami—he's already shut down LeBron and company en route to the 2011 NBA championship.
Coming out of the Western Conference, the Heat must be wary of the potential to face Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs or the Memphis Grizzlies' elite defensive tandem of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Regardless of whom they draw, both would be a threat to the crown.
The key in either instance is receiving production from Bosh.
It's Really Not That Bad
When you hear that Dwyane Wade is averaging just 13.3 points per game during the playoffs, you immediately assume something has gone wrong. Not only is Wade one of the best players in the world, but he's also the most decorated postseason performer on his team.
With that being said, the two-time NBA champion really hasn't been playing that bad.
Contrary to popular belief, it's not a matter of declining ability or banged-up knees that have forced Wade to underwhelm. Instead, Wade has been passive during the first two rounds of the postseason.
Thus far, Wade's averaging just 12.0 field-goal attempts per game—6.5 fewer than he put up during the Heat's 2012 title run.
Furthermore, Wade is shooting 45.8 percent from the field for the playoffs and 55.9 percent against the Chicago Bulls. He's also averaging 5.5 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game.
By that account, if he ever turns up the intensity, his production will likely improve accordingly.
For those who have short-term memory and believe that Wade was just a high-quality player before LeBron James arrived, don't kid yourself. D-Wade is one of the best postseason performers of our generation and had won a title before LeBron showed up.
From 2005 to 2010, Wade posted postseason averages of 28.3 points, 6.1 assists, 5.6 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.2 blocks per game—the man can carry his own.
With this being known, it's fair to derive that Wade is not only elite, but he's also a dominant force during the postseason. Once his knee becomes stable and his aggression returns, we'll likely be reminded of that, as we always are.
So don't panic, folks—Wade and the Heat can take this short period of inconsistency as a blessing in disguise.