Dwyane Wade is sick and tired of talking about his balky right knee, so bringing it up won’t ease his pain.
“I’ve been talking about it for two months. I ain’t got nothing else to say,” the nine-time All-Star guard said about the bone bruise that has grounded him for much of the season.
The Miami Heat are in a dogfight with the Indiana Pacers in the 2013 Eastern Conference finals mainly because Wade hasn’t been himself. The explosion is simply not there. His jump shot has failed him time and time again; he’s seen his floaters sent back in his face, and he has very little lift on his forays to the basket.
Wade has hit the 20-point mark only once this postseason. He’s shooting 44 percent (34-for-77) from the field and averaging 14.5 points against the Pacers. That’s well below his season (21.2) and career scoring averages (24.7).
The 31-year-old two-time NBA champion, who used to be known as the Flash for his lightning-quick moves, has been reduced to a mere mortal and may be starting to see hot flashes.
“Right now he’s giving us what he’s got,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said about Wade, who re-aggravated his ailing knee when he bumped knees with Jimmy Butler during the Heat-Bulls series.
“Physically we know what he’s going through right now,” Spoelstra said, “and for him to be out there competing and giving us what he’s got I have incredible respect for him as a professional athlete, especially now that the spotlight is on him.”
But Wade is not the only Heat star in a major slump.
Chris Bosh has been missing in action, too. His much anticipated battle with Pacers center Roy Hibbert has been a complete mismatch, with Bosh getting whipped like Chael Sonnen against Jon Jones in UFC 159. In his last three games, Bosh is 4-for-21 from the field and outscored by Hibbert 137-68.
“This is the part when you have to be mentally tough. Things haven’t been going my way this series. I want to play better, and I have to play better in Game 7. It’s as simple as that,” said Bosh, who scored a career playoff low five points on 1-for-8 shooting from the field in Game 6 in Indiana.
“We missed a lot of point-blank shots. We missed three layups by ourselves. I missed 18-footers,” Bosh continued. “It’s just a part of the game. We’re gonna have to find a way. It all comes down to one game. It’s great that it’s on our home court. As much as this sucks we just have to put it behind us and move on to Game 7. We have to make shots, we have to play better. There’s not much I can say. I’m just really disappointed in myself.”
So what can Wade and Bosh do differently to help the Heat from avoiding elimination? The answer falls on the shoulders of Spoelstra and four-time NBA MVP LeBron James.
“If anything it’s on me. I gotta find ways to get those guys comfortable in areas where they can be aggressive. And that’ll be my focus in the next 48 hours,” Spoelstra said. “Obviously they are a major part of what we do and I need to find ways and get them in places where they can be really aggressive. Now in Game 7s and games when your backs are against the wall, I know those two men’s characters and this is when they come up big in these moments.”
As for James, the ball will be in his hands for Game 7 so it is up to him to make sure Wade and Bosh get their touches and find them easy shots to get them going.
“They’re two great players. When they don’t shoot well or play well it is more on them,” James said. “Not taking any credit away from Indiana’s defense, but Dwyane and Chris has seen every defense that’s been applied to them in 10 years and they’ve been able to figure it out. This one is just taking a little bit longer.”
Expect Wade to be more aggressive in Game 7, as he’s known to rise to the occasion when the stakes are high. Wade has been doubted all his career, from the moment he got drafted to his meteoric rise to stardom during the 2006 playoffs. He has been picking his spots during these playoffs and all it takes in one brilliant game to erase a forgettable series. Sometimes all it takes is one jumper to fall for Wade to find his rhythm, but he has to be more aggressive. He needs more movement and activity.
The same goes for Bosh.
The best way to bust out of a slump is to keep shooting. Bosh can’t turn down open looks. The Pacers are daring him to shoot threes because they are banking on the fact he won’t make more than two a game. If Bosh makes more than two in Game 7, the Heat could roll to a comfortable victory.
“Chris is struggling with his shot and him hurting his ankle didn’t help him a lot as well. But I think he will find it,” James said. “It’s my job as a leader to keep him motivated to let him know how important he is to our movement to our chances of returning to The Finals.”