LeBron James balanced all of the blame for Tuesday night's humbling 113-77 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on his broad shoulders.
"Absolutely, I take full responsibility for our team's performance," James told reporters during a press conference on Wednesday. "I have to do whatever it takes...So I will be better tomorrow."
That's what team leaders are supposed to do, though—carry the blame on rough nights, deflect the credit on the good ones.
But he wasn't fooling true hoops heads. A 36-point drubbing can't be pinned on one player, even if he's running out of hardware space on his mantle.
James needed more from his teammates, specifically the other two-thirds of the Miami Heat's vaunted Big Three. Through the first three games of this series Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh averaged a pedestrian 26.7 combined points on 44.3 percent shooting from the field.
In Thursday night's Game 4 James' right-hand man, Wade, delivered in a way that the King had only previously witnessed from afar:
LeBron on Wade: "He was ’06 Flash tonight. And we needed every bit of it."— Howard Beck (@HowardBeckNYT) June 14, 2013
Wade seemed to be taking out months of frustrations stemming from a bruised knee and subsequent statistical declines on any San Antonio defender foolish enough to stand in his way. He finished Miami's 109-93 win with 32 points on 14-of-25 shooting (56.0 percent), six rebounds, six steals, four assists (with no turnovers) and a block in his 40 minutes.
This wasn't simply a vintage Wade moment. This was one of the most dominant performances seen on the game's grandest stage in more than a decade:
Dwayne Wade is the first player w/ 30+ points, 6 rebs, 6 steals & 4 assists in a playoff game since Allen Iverson in 2001.— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) June 14, 2013
James didn't call out his teammates after the third-worst loss in NBA Finals history. He didn't need to.
Wade knew what the Heat needed from him:
"The team needed one from me today. It was about time I showed up." - @DwyaneWade— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 14, 2013
With so much at stake in this series (the 27-game winning streak, Hall of Fame legacies, possibly the fate of Miami's talented trio), the Heat's listless effort on Tuesday night turned up their panic alarms to full blast. Forty-eight hours later this is now a three-game series, one in which the Heat again have home-court advantage.
Bandwagoners get ready. I'm hearing that Heat Nation and Wade's fan club might have a few openings.