According to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY Sports, the NBA has not suspended Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Indiana Pacers. This comes after Wade struck Pacers guard Lance Stephenson in the head with his elbow.
With the NBA granting Wade a pardon, he must use this opportunity to break out of his recent funk.
Thus far, Wade has tallied postseason averages of 13.7 points, 5.3 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.8 steals on 46.8 percent shooting from the field. With one glance at those numbers, it's easy to suggest that this is not a funk, but instead a strong postseason.
With that being said, this isn't your average player—this is a genuine NBA star.
Wade has career postseason averages of 24.7 points, 6.1 assists, 5.1 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.0 block on 48.9 percent shooting from the field. More importantly, he's an NBA champion and a former Finals MVP.
It's time he starts playing that way.
If the numbers don't make it clear enough, this is not the same D-Wade we've become accustomed to witnessing. Not only is the future Hall of Famer failing to score in his usually elite manner, but he's not displaying the aggression necessary to dominate.
"When I feel great, I'm going to attack. When I don't, I know how to be a team player and give of myself for other guys. ... Even though my knee isn't 100 percent, it ain't gone."
Wade is battling a bruise in his knee that causes his knee cap to move out of place—that's what you call pain.
In Game 3, the Heat need Wade to overcome the pain and return to the form that made him a nine-time All-Star. More importantly, they need him to be the player that has carved out a legacy as one of the greatest champions of his generation.
Wade currently has two NBA championship rings to his name—he'll need to turn back the clock to earn a third.
Indiana in Control
The Miami Heat are the better team, possess the superior talent and deserve to be favored against the Indiana Pacers. If they are to lose this series, it would be one of the greatest upsets in recent memory.
With that being said, a case could be made that the Pacers are in full control of this series—splitting the first two games, being a buzzer-beater away from a 2-0 lead and seeing the action return to Indiana is a major reason why.
With the series tied at 1-1, the Pacers now own the home-court advantage over the Heat. They may remain the underdogs, but we'd be remiss to ignore the facts in this series and avoid falling victim to the powers of reputation.
The Pacers haven't lost a home game this postseason and defeated the Heat in both of their regular-season meetings in Indiana.
If there was ever a time for legitimate concerns in Miami, it's now, as the Heat enter territory that they've been unsuccessful visiting. One loss would send them back home on equal ground against a team that does not fear them. Two losses could all but spell the end of the series.
Dwyane Wade can be the X-Factor.
Lance Stephenson's Versatile Contributions
Thus far against the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers off-guard Lance Stephenson has been a dynamic force. Not only has he managed to play strong defense, but he's contributing in virtually every statistical category.
For numerical evidence, Stephenson has posted averages of 8.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.5 steals against the Heat.
The numbers don't stop there. Going up against strong competition from the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks, the 22-year-old has fearlessly posted averages of 9.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.3 steals.
If the Heat are to defeat the Pacers, they can't allow Indiana's fifth-in-command to make such a significant impact. Not only should Dwyane Wade be performing at a high level, but he should be dominating the inexperienced Stephenson.
Thus far, that hasn't been the case.
Half-Court Scoring Needs
During Game 1, the Miami Heat scored 92 points during regulation. In Game 2, they were only able to manage 93 points in four quarters of play.
One of the key differences in Game 1, a Miami win, was that Wade scored 19 points on 9-of-15 shooting—he tallied just 14 in a Game 2 loss.
The Heat have every reason to move the ball around, as they possess countless shooters that convert at a high clip from beyond the arc. With that being said, Wade is averaging 14.5 field goal attempts against the Pacers and 12.4 during the postseason, as a whole.
D-Wade tallied 15.8 field goal attempts during the regular season—the disparity speaks for itself.
The Heat are at their best when Wade is attacking, as it forces the defense to rotate and open up slashing and shooting lanes for his teammates. That includes LeBron James and Chris Bosh, who are lethal on their own.
Wade's lack of aggression is a major reason LeBron James is shooting 34.1 percent from beyond the arc after converting 40.1 percent during the regular season.
With Wade on the attack, James will be able to separate from Paul George and play a more efficient brand of offense—if you can believe that to be possible. More importantly, Roy Hibbert will be forced to step out to defend the rim, which is something only LeBron has forced thus far.
LeBron may be the best individual player in the world, but the Heat are title contenders because of everyone involved—Wade just so happens to be the glue that isn't sticking.