— LeBron James looked one way in a lackluster first half and threaded the basketball another way. Dwyane Wade moved to the open spot and collected the pass in stride for a dunk.
Suddenly, stunningly, this was it again.
This was what they imagined.
This was the team again. This was the show. On a desperate Sunday, Wade and James picked up the basketball world from that point and spun it on their fingers, taking turns, trading shots, scoring 38 consecutive Heat points and pushing back Indiana, 101-93, to even this playoff series at two wins each.
“That’s the reason why I came to Miami, for performances like that, the kind that you’ll be able to tell your kids about one day,” Heat forward Shane Battier said.
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Everything you come to sports for was on display across this afternoon, wasn’t it?
You don’t just come to see the greatness of LeBron, which was there from the start Sunday and never wavered. He ended with a line of 40 points, 18 rebounds, nine assists, two blocked shots and 44 minutes played.
“Five turnovers, too,” LeBron offered.
You also watch sports to see people react to having their world go south. Wade had a miserable few days after his previous two games. He then began Sunday making just one of his first eight shots.
“He struggled early, and I was trying to get him an easy one, ” LeBron said.
“All I needed was one shot,” Wade said.
And so came that pass for a dunk late in the second quarter. That pass added to the moment. It again defines what is different about LeBron than other elite players. He wants to help others. He plays the most unselfish game of all.
“I’m not saying I got him started …,” he said.
But from that point the Heat were the Heat again. It’s as impossible to answer why Wade sunk into such a funk at the most important stretch for so long as it is to say why he came immediately out of it.
He watched video with his Marquette coach, Tom Crean, who’s now at Indiana University. He watched more video the Heat assembled. He showed up early before Sunday’s game and practiced his shooting.
And there in the third quarter it all fit again. The Heat scored 75 points in the previous two games against Indiana, both losses. Now with Wade flying again they had 76 points by the end of the third quarter.
“When we get in a rhythm, shots just start falling for everyone,” LeBron said.
Udonis Haslem added 14 important points. But mainly this was the LeBron and Wade show. That came with a caution, too. Must they have M-V-P games like this for the Heat to survive this series?
In a word: Yes.
Indiana, while defeated, is bolstered by that idea. Without Chris Bosh, LeBron and Wade not only have play this great for two of the next three games. They have to play these high minutes without wearing down against Indiana’s phyiscal style.
Can Wade score 30 points, have nine rebounds and play nearly 41 minutes like he did Sunday? His body is wearing down, as everyone knows.
LeBron is asked to do even more than Wade. More rebounding. And much more defense. But by midway through the fourth quarter he was so exhausted he leaned over and waved for Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to pull him from the game.
“I planned on playing the whole game,” LeBron said. “That was my mindset. My reserve tank just didn’t kick in there in the fourth quarter.”
It was enough Sunday. It was what this season needed. If the Heat had lost this game, they weren’t going to win the series and a lot of ugly questions would resonate into this summer about jobs and futures.
But do Wade and LeBron have it in them two of the next three games?
“I did it before!” Wade said, arms up. “I’ll do it again!”
Game 5 on Tuesday is waiting.