Every great team has a pecking order. For the Miami Heat, it goes something like this: it’s Dwyane Wade first, LeBron James second, and Chris Bosh third. Everyone else falls in the back of the line.
That was evident in Game 3 of the 2011 NBA Finals when Wade decided to take the lead and everyone else should follow him. And they all did, including LeBron and Bosh.
The Heat won Game 3 because of Wade. Not LeBron. Not Bosh. It was Wade. He carried the Heat offensively when things got tense, he grabbed every rebound within his reach, he played aggressive defense, and he motivated his teammates – mainly James and Bosh – by getting in their face and letting them know what is at stake. History has shown that when a series is tied in The Finals the winner of Game 3 usually wins the series. Wade knew the importance of Sunday’s game in Dallas so he sent his message on Saturday by going extra hard in practice. His teammates definitely noticed.
“They can tell I wanted this game,” said Wade, who finished with a team-high 29 points on 12-of-21 field goals and had 11 rebounds. “I’ve been here before so I’m just trying to lead, and my guys did a great job of following that lead.”
With Wade leading the way, the Heat were able to hold off Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks and reclaim home-court advantage in the series. If the Finals MVP was handed out after three games, Wade easily wins it. He has been the Heat’s best player in all three games, and his only competition for MVP is Nowitzki.
“He played spectacular basketball today,” Bosh said of Wade. “He took all good shots, and we kinda rode that wave for a little while. He really set the tone for us.”
There was a point during the game when ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy mentioned that Wade was playing at a different speed than anyone else. He was. After dropping a heart-breaker in Game 2, the Heat needed one of their Big Three to step up and play like a superstar and Wade embraced the moment and took on that challenge.
“We felt this was a must-win and we had to put it upon ourselves to take back home court in a sense, by any means necessary,” said Wade. “I took it upon myself as a leader to try to lead my guys by example.”
When asked about his animated conversations with James and Bosh during the game, Wade said: “Them guys understand. They know me. The things said was all for the better of the team. It’s all about winning. I want it. And LeBron knew that. Things that I was saying to him and saying to Chris was the same they would say to me. We have enough respect for each other, but at the same time I wanted it.”
While Wade was busy putting his entire team on his shoulders and matching Nowitzki shot-for-shot late in the game, LeBron – who only had 17 points and was a nonfactor in the fourth quarter – sort of disappeared. During the postgame conference, a reporter brought up the fact that LeBron hasn’t played like a superstar in each of the fourth quarters in the NBA Finals, even suggesting that the self-proclaimed king is “shrinking” on the game’s biggest stage.
Obviously bothered by the question, LeBron gave a very terse response. “I think you’re concentrating on just one side of the floor, and all you’re looking at are the stat sheet,” James said. “Honestly, I’m a two-way player. Tonight D-Wade had it going offensively so we allow him to handle ball and we allow him to bring us home offensively. You can watch the film again and see what I did defensively. You ask me a better question tomorrow.”
As for getting an getting an earful from his buddy Wade, LeBron said: “We’re teammates. There is no room to hold anything back. Our friendship allows us to don’t care about that moment. In that situation, he had to say what he had to say to me and as a competitor you love when guys challenge you. He challenged me in the locker room at halftime, he challenged me on the court and as a competitor I respect him.”
And what exactly was said? “It’s about winning,” said the captain of the Miami Heat. In case you don’t know who that is, he’s the one introduced last when the starting lineup of the Heat are announced and he’s the one wearing the championship ring.
Joel Huerto is the editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter at: twitter.com/onemanfastbreak.