So much of the narrative entering these NBA Finals centered on LeBron James (of course). Would LeBron finally win his first championship? Would he rise to the occasion after faltering badly in the Finals one year earlier? Would he outperform Kevin Durant in the duel of superstars?
And all of that is fine and good and still accurate in terms of the broadest story line for this Heat-Oklahoma City Finals.
There was a different narrative emerging from the Heat’s 105-94 loss in Game?1 here, though — certainly from a Miami perspective, at least.
Dwyane Wade looked old.
His game did, anyway. His performance did. And his ability to be his old self, meaning his younger self.
That might be harsh. It also might disappear in a massive comeback effort by Wade in Game?2 back here Thursday. We have seen it before. Wade down and doubted, using it as fuel, and proving everyone wrong.
They need that from him now.
They haven’t in this postseason, until now.
It became clear Tuesday, watching OKC’s youthful athleticism and scoring punch, that Miami cannot win this series and championship without Wade finding his high gear and once again being the clutch performer that helped make him - after Dan Marino - the most beloved professional athlete South Florida has had.
James has carried Miami to this point, in this MVP season of his, and into these Finals.
Now, he needs more help.
Not just from the supporting cast like Chris Bosh (who came off the bench again) or Shane Battier, who scored 17 on Tuesday in a small rain of threes.
He needs more help from his old costar, D-Wade.
The difference in Game?1 was that the Thunder got big performances from both of its top stars, with Durant scoring a game-high 36 points and Russell Westbrook 27.
And Miami got a big performance from only one of its two biggest stars, with James scoring 30 points — enough to hold his critics at bay if not quite placate them — but Wade managing but a subpar 19 points on poor 7-for-19 shooting.
That kind of night by Wade is enough to get by in the early rounds of the playoffs, maybe. Or perhaps when James is going crazy and dropping 45 like he did on Boston in Game?6.
But now? Against OKC? If Miami hopes to win it all?
The Heat needs James and Wade to be costars again. By that I mean just as much James, and much, much more Wade.
If that happens, this series is going to be fun, and brutally even, and long, a two-week thrill ride, ending unknown. Not four, not five, not six, these NBA Finals will stretch to the full seven games I’d say, even if the Thunder’s fourth-quarter burst Tuesday maybe put that in some doubt.
For now, whether the Heat or Oklahoma City will win this championship is still far less knowable (even Miami’s opening loss) than the fact the league and this sport already have won with this contrasting, exciting matchup and the two young superstars driving it, pedals down.
Beyond the civic disparity of Oklahoma’s prairies vs. the glitz of South Beach, the Thunder is organically grown, borne of the draft and homegrown development, vs. Miami’s spending hugely in free agency to add James and Bosh to Wade.Next Page >
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