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Heat look to rebound

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What Has Happened To Dwyane Wade?
 
Something is wrong with Dwyane Wade. The14.3 points he’s averaged in the playoffs is the lowest of his career. Think it’s a byproduct of LeBron James taking on more responsibility? Well he averaged 22.8 PPG last year during their championship run, and 24.5 PPG when they lost to the Mavericks in the finals two years ago. His career average in the post season heading in to this year’s campaign is 25.4 per game. It has never dipped in to the teens. Not ever.
 
Considering that Miami has lost two games in this series by an average of -6.5 points, it’s obvious that the Heat are missing the 10 or 11 extra points they usually see from Wade. Wade’s knee is the problem. It’s been bothering him all season, and it’s killing him in the playoffs. He doesn’t have the lift in his jumper and never tries to drive the lane with his trademarked brand of reckless abandon.
 
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I am no fan of Wade’s persona on the court. His lack of class isn’t disrespectful in the fun way, it’s just disrespectful. Remember the way he coughed with LeBron after Dirk led an improbably comeback in Game 4 of the 2011 Finals? That’s the Wade I hate. That type of behavior has emerged with Wade too often for it to be a maturity thing. He is who he is as a person and that’s fine. It might be my perception of him, but either way this is all personal stuff.
 
Wade The Player? I love Wade The Player. L-O-V-E. The way he used to take over games, play with unbridled confidence and always picked himself up off the ground when he went crashing through the lane endeared me. I loved his effort.
 
But that effort isn’t there because this year his physical abilities are being impinged by his swollen and strained knee. It’s affecting how he plays and ruining any chance Miami has of being truly competitive. You can’t place a bet on good faith with the Heat because you have no idea how Wade is going to perform.
 
When I started gambling one of the fun little activities I used to do with basketball games is add up  the expected contributions of each important player. It was an archaic version of the system I apply these days. Give LeBron 30 or 35 points. Bosh is usually decent for around 15 or 18 points. I’d give the Miami bench 10 points in this series, for example.
 
To be truthfully honest, I don’t know what I would give Wade in this series. At first you see his name and think “25 points easy”. Then you gloss over the numbers and you have to evaluate him completely differently, which is really the whole purpose of this article.
 
His average in this series has been 16.8 points. To put this in relative perspective, George Hill has been averaging 15.5 points per game and he’s a facilitating point guard who isn’t leaned on to score. Wade’s job on the basketball court is to score, and he hasn’t crested twenty points this entire series.
 
His knee is definitely part of the problem. Wade is a very good jump shooter, but he’s an even deadlier scorer when he’s slashing to the basket and challenging post defenders at the rim. It’s part of the reason the ensemble in Miami was so terrifying to begin with. There’s no way in high hell Roy Hibbert exerts himself on this series in the same way if Wade is hurling himself at the basket and getting him in to foul trouble. And as good as Hibbert is, he can’t defend in transition. He’s too slow. In set pieces? Forget about it.
 
Part of the reason that Wade doesn’t try and drive as many times is because his knee can’t take it, and he needs to be on the floor for the simple purpose of spreading out the Pacers defense. Still, Wade isn’t the type of player that can only play with only half his arsenal. You can tell. I mean, just look at the numbers.
 
I’m in no way trying to belittle what Roy Hibbert and David West have done in this series. Hibbert is a beast that has manhandled Chris Bosh, Chris Andersen and others while rendering Miami virtually useless in the rebounding department. David West is such a scary enforcer that I’d be scared to try and run him over with my car.
 
A lot of chatter surrounding this series has been about how Miami doesn’t have a true post presence. How Bosh is a stretch four, or a small forward with a power forward’s game. All of this is ridiculous because Miami had the best counter-weapon for a post defense: two barrel chested superstars playing in their prime, flying down the court were supposed to render true big men obsolete. The Heat haven’t scored in transition in the same way that they usually do.
 
I don’t need stats to prove it either. How many times have Wade and LeBron burst down the court in transition together? I can’t remember one instance. That’s pretty surprising, albeit not shocking considering that Wade’s knee is more cumbersome than he’ll admit. A summer off will give Wade a chance to heal and return to the floor while justifying his somewhat-well-deserved arrogance.
 
Will the summer come sooner rather than later? I think it will. You can’t live in the past and hope that Wade’s knee suddenly heals overnight. The depth chart past Wade and LeBron is eerily thin. Don’t get me started on Ray Allen and the Chalmers/Cole duo.
 
The obvious candidate to step up is Bosh because they’re paying him a boat load of money to be a legitimate impact player, but he’s caught in a matchup nightmare that he can’t wake up from. This is hilarious or tragic depending on which side of the fence you stand on with him. Bosh can’t hang score in the post against Hibbert, has trouble with the stronger West and is averaging 3.3 rebounds per game. Why else do you think he’s lobbing up three pointers like he’s Matt Bonner? There’s nothing else he can possibly do!
 
Wade being on the court isn’t a miracle or anything because he hasn’t blown out his knee trying to put this team on his back. Instead he’s deferred to LeBron at every chance. James fouled out in Game 4 on a dubious moving screen, and you could see the life being sucked out of Miami. That’s supposed to be the point where they say, “We got Wade! We got Bosh! We got this game!” Didn’t happen. They know as well as we do that Wade is a shell of himself and Bosh can’t impact this series with Hibbert bullying him in to the ground.
 
Perception and reality are two different things. Just don’t lose sight of who Wade really is in this particular series. There’s a reason that he has to play even though he’s hurt – there’s no one else to turn to. And Wade at anything less than his usually self is pretty average.
 
Bet the Pacers at +7.5 in the UNDER in Game 5.

  
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