SAN ANTONIO – The rebound went to Chris Bosh, who passed to LeBron James, who then passed to Dwyane Wade, who was loping down the lane and dunking the last smidgeon of San Antonio hope, all of it, Thursday night.
The band was back together again. That was the takeaway of this magical Heat night. The Big Three of James, Bosh and Wade has never played bigger than in this 109-93 win in Game 4 of the NBA Finals to even the series at two wins apiece.This was the game these three marquee players hadn’t had all playoffs, the one Heat fans wondered if they'd ever have again. It wasn’t one of them this time. It was all of them all night.
They combined for a staggering 85 points, or nearly double the drooping 43.6 they’d averaged in the three previous Finals games. They also had 30 rebounds, eight blocked shots, 10 steals, a miniscule two turnovers and it all signaled the cavalry riding over the hill of this season.
“It’s about time,’’ Wade said primarily of his 32-point night, his playoff high.
The thought carries to all of them together. Wasn’t it about time the superpowers put their rings together? Hadn’t they been collectively quiet, leaning too hard on LeBron to the point the Big Three was reduced to The Big One?
“It was on our shoulders, obviously,’’ said LeBron, who scored a game-high 33 points. “We had to figure out a way to will a game for us, to play at the highest level.
“When all three of us are clicking at the same time, we’re a tough team to beat.”
This night was like oxygen sucked deep in the lungs for the Heat. Their championship hopes are still breathing. Their season lives once more. Doomsday? Armageddon? All the talk, once again, of the Big Three being broken up?
Maybe it took the crisis of a 36-point loss in Game 3 and the stage of these NBA Finals to unite these three again. Lose this one, go down 3-1 in the series, and it was a slippery slope regarding the Big Three’s future.
Maybe it’s in their DNA to welcome roller-coaster drama. They still haven’t lost consecutive games since Jan. 8. They’re 12-0 now after losing a game since that point.
For some franchises, making three straight NBA Finals would be an era’s achievement. The Big Three isn’t built that way. It’s an all-or-nothing proposition. Heaven or hell. Win or else.
It’s back on track now, too. It’s back, because LeBron was his usual self, not the lost player of the last couple of games. It’s back, because Bosh had his best game in weeks with a 20-point, 13-rebound effort while reclaiming the paint on defense.
It’s back because Wade reached way back this night to muster the player he once always was.
“That dude, he was amazing,’’ LeBron said of Wade. “He was ’06 Flash tonight.”
Wade made six-straight Heat points to push the fourth-quarter lead to nine points. Bosh then followed with four straight, and then a a steal on defense, to push the lead to 11 points.
All the while, San Antonio’s best players couldn’t crack a Heat defense that returned to form, too .While the Heat’s Big Three rose, San Antonio’s Big Three of Tim Duncan (20 points), Tony Parker (13) and Manu Ginobili grew old before our eyes.
Maybe it’s just one night. Maybe it’s a sign of something to come. But you better have your best players playing their best if you want to win a title. That’s the lesson of these recent Heat seasons, going back two years in the Finals to LeBron’s disappearance to last year when all three played well.
“All of them, quite obviously, they’re big components of what we do,’’ Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "This happened to be a game they were all able to be aggressive. Next game might be different."We needed every bit of it tonight."For the second straight Finals, Spoelstra made a bold move in replacing from the starting lineup. Mike Miller was inserted. It didn’t have much direct effect, as it turned out, as Miller missed his only shot all night.
But it created match-up and spacing changes that seemed to open the floor more for Wade and LeBron. Or maybe they opened it for themselves in a way they hadn’t all series, the way Wade hadn’t much these playoffs on his hurting knee.
Who has the advantage now? In the coming two days, you’ll hear all the theories. The Heat does, because they have momentum. San Antonio does, because the next game is still at their home. The Heat does, because they’re guaranteed of returning home.
The truth is, these teams have played even through four games. Each has won on the other’s home court. Each has laid one egg. And it’s a new series now. A best-of-three series.
Game 5 is Sunday night in San Antonio, and then it returns to Miami for the final two. One way or another, the NBA season ends in AmericanAirlines Arena for the third straight year.
The Big Three did that. They were back. For a game? For the series? On we go.