The smoke has settled, critics have been temporarily silenced and the world has digested the historic resurgence and all around brilliant performances from LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. The pressure and suspense continues to mount, transcending into a best of 3 series with the Indiana Pacers that Lebron so eloquently stated will be "A dog fight".
The Heat's superstars addressed the physicality and recent up close altercations with Pacers forward Danny Granger before game 5.
"Whatever he's trying to do it's not working. He said he's not scared of Lebron and wants to let James know, well then I guess he's doing it for his own psyche. It's stupid" - James said
"I'm all for standing up for guys but some things you just can't keep doing. My message for Granger was that you just can't keep running up into people's faces for altercations. We're not fighting on this basketball court, so let's not act like we're going to fight. We can be physical and do all that, but certain things got to stop. Are you out here to play basketball or are you here to be a tough guy?" - Wade said
Game 5 will certainly be physical and competitive but there are a couple areas of the game that will serve to be critical for Miami's success.
With Chris Bosh's health still a dark cloud of uncertainty, Mike Miller discombobulated with an overabundance of injuries and a depleted bench, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will have to be stellar. Neither can do it by themselves and in order for Miami to win game 5, Wade and James must continue to handicap the Pacers frontline defense by attacking the basket, creating opportunities for role players, but most importantly, continuing to play so seamless and cohesive off of each other. A key change in the 2nd half of game 4 came when Dwyane Wade began running high pick and rolls with a big, providing him with a "flash" like platform to attack the basket and put the Pacers bigs in an uncomfortable position. Miami deviated from their plan of high/low posting of Lebron and Wade, a strategy that favored the Pacers strength and size. Both LeBron and Wade did an excellent job of moving without the ball and finding each other in the half court set, something we haven't seen yet in this post season but will certainly need to see for the duration of this series.
Roll Players Anyone?
Udonis Haslem was the unsung hero and definitive X-factor for the Miami Heat in game 4. Haslem much like every other Miami Heat role player, came into game 4 struggling, shooting just 2-11 and totaling 6 points in the first 3 games. Haslem more than doubled his points in the series, scoring a very much needed 14 points on 5-6 shooting.
Can Haslem repeat this? Perhaps, but the Heat will need a considerable effort from other role players to survive this grueling 2nd round series. Mario Chalmers has been the only other bright spot for the Heat but his shooting has also tinkered off. James Jones, Mike Miller, Shane Battier and Chalmers are a combined 7-36 from 3-point range (19%). Simply put, the Heat must start to knock down perimeter shots to get past the Pacers.