Where did he go?
If you blinked, you missed LeBron James in Game 4. Sure, he continued his work on the defensive end and contributed rebounds and assists. But, James failed to assert himself offensively and watched as Game 4 slipped away. James was held to a playoff-low eight points in this, his 91st career playoff game.
He converted 3-of-11 shots and showed zero aggressiveness on the offensive end of the court. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 56 points. Wade actually shot brilliantly from the field once again, posting a fantastic 13-for-20 night. Yet, despite his heroics, everyone’s going to be talking about the free throw that he missed. As he said, “The basketball gods didn’t want that to go down (I’m paraphrasing).”
Dirk Nowitzki played through a reported 102-degree fever to give the Mavericks 21 points and 11 rebounds. He made only 6-of-19 field goal attempts, but hit nine free throws. You can totally tell that he was ill — Dirk actually missed a free throw!
Jason Terry was challenged following Game 3 and responded well here. He scored 17 points, including clutch free throws and a layup in the final minutes. While Terry rose up offensively, it took Tyson Chandler’s emergence on the boards to break through. Miami dominated the early-going with offensive rebounds. Chandler eventually amassed 16 rebounds, including nine offensive boards of his own.
Add 16 points from Marion and 11 from DeShawn Stevenson off of the bench (he played 25 minutes) and the Mavericks doubled up the Heat’s bench (28 to 14).
The improved bench play and rebounding charge in the second half (the Mavs were out-rebounded by three overall) helped Dallas overcome the sizable fourth quarter deficit and 4-for-19 shooting from three-point range.
There are a ton of story angles working in this series, now tied at two.
Dirk will get past his sinus infection and fever to get ready for Game 5. Wade has played large all series.
The only story that matters is how LeBron James responds following his recent run of sub-par offensive efforts. This was supposed to be a King-making series, and the Heat’s Game 1 win appeared to put James on the path. Instead, he’s subjugated himself to be a facilitator and not an attacker.
It’s a tricky business, this being the all-around superhero.
— When you win, people praise your play-making, unselfishness and “feel” for the game.
— When you lose, you didn’t act as a leader and your “heart” and “fire” are questioned.
Where’s that balance?
Right now, the detractors are lining up to take their shots. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is likely penning another missive directed at Scottie Pippen or anyone else who elevated James to legend status before he was fitted for his first ring.
There are innumerable books about this post-“Decision” Heat squad waiting to be published. The final chapter will be penned in the next three games.