by Ryan Clarke
En route to their third consecutive Eastern conference championship, the number 3 carried an incredible amount of significance on Monday night for Miami. The “Big 3″ returned to their expected dominant levels of play; #3 Dwyane Wade included, (21 points, 9 rebounds). Plentiful 3-balls from Ray Allen didn’t hurt either as LeBron James breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that the weight of the team no longer rested solely upon his rippling shoulders.
James’ effort shouldn’t be shrugged off however, posting 32 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists shooting 15/16 from the free throw line. Simply put, James lived up to his nickname of the King while the Pacers, peasants, cowered in fear.
Dwyane Wade stepped into the time machine and went to work, grabbing offensive rebounds aplenty and slashing through the lane like a blade through flesh. If the Heat hope to win their second straight title, Wade needs to keep this level of play up into the next series with San Antonio.
The Heat defense had Indiana sweating all evening as the Pacers put up a mere 76 points as a team. It was clear from the get-go that James and company weren’t going to let this series slip away from them. A particular play of note was when David West got trapped by Bosh and Haslem in the first half. With the shot clock running down, the lengthy duo scrambled to suffocate West in the corner. When they succeeded and the shot clock ran out, Bosh let out a mighty dinosaur-like roar as he marched to the other end of the floor.
We have however learned plenty from this series about Indiana. First off, Roy Hibbert severely lacks maturity and if he doesn’t gain some, he’s a Dwight Howard carbon-copy. Second, Paul George will be a perennial MVP candidate from here on out. Despite fouling out tonight, the dude can flat-out ball. He can play with anyone.
Miami is a party town, and that’s evidenced by their raucous playoff crowd. It’s almost like watching a college game with the reactions, chanting and individual taunting that the passionate fans exhibit. Why not be excited Miami? You’ve got the greatest player in the world (for at least another year) and he’s likely gonna keep bringing home the Larry O’Brien for however long he’s there.
This victory couldn’t be much sweeter for James’ teammates, who were scrutinized, analyzed and demoralized by every pundit on the planet after game six. Writers and broadcasters alike even mentioned LeBron’s 2014 plans due to Wade and Bosh’s lackluster play. Ridiculous. Let the man play his heart out until that fateful summer, then you can over-analyze his second “decision”.
In pursuit of another ring, LeBron will face a familiar finals foe in Tim Duncan. Duncan is chasing his fifth title, and his first since sweeping James and the 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers. Old school versus new school, talent versus experience, ancient superstars facing those in their prime. You can use whatever tired cliché you want to describe the Spurs-Heat matchup, but one thing’s for sure: it’ll be one for the ages.