Most of this season it was a forgone conclusion that the Heat would win the NBA championship. They won 66 regular season games that included a dazzling 27 game winning streak. The once clunky dynamic of the Big 3 was tightened to a well oiled machine after Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh handed the keys to LeBron James. The addition of Chris Anderson appeared to be the final piece of the puzzle as the Heat dominated the regular season.
Before winning their first championship together last season, the Big 3 were the most scrutinized group in NBA history. Each individual faced daily criticism and were openly mocked for their impolitic choices before ever playing together. Most were delighted when the Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals. As the biggest star, James was the biggest target for critique, especially after consecutive poor fourth quarter performances. Bosh and Wade helped shoulder James' burden and made him the leader the following season. Rather than crumble, the Big 3 were galvanized.
Wade and Bosh have struggled miserably throughout the series. Bosh has less rebounds than three point attempts and Wade's knee problems have stolen his athleticism. In the Heat's three wins against the Pacers, neither Wade nor Bosh contributed offensively. It has been James who handled the burden while the national media dubbed the Heat a Big 1.
Matchup issues aside, the real concern is what's going on inside the Heat's locker room. James seems to have lost trust in Wade and Bosh referring to his game 5 heroics as, "going back to my Cleveland days." Reggie Miller referred to the Heat as the "Miami Cavaliers" in their game 6 loss. After the game Bosh took responsibility for his play and said little else. Wade, however, said the Heat (James) need to work harder to get he and Bosh involved in the offense. Perhaps it was a response to James' Cleveland comment.
It's a tough decision considering Bosh has played tentatively preferring to shoot three pointers rather than mix it up with David West and Hibbert, and Wade hasn't found his jumper the entire playoffs and lacks the explosion to get to the basket and finish. It also doesn't help that Ray Allen and Shane Battier have been no-shows. Both were extremely reliable three point threats all season at over 40 percent.
Getting Bosh going means getting him open looks from about 15 feet. Bosh has always been more effective offensively when he makes his first jumper. James looked for him early in game 6 but after he missed a few attempts, the ball didn't go back his way very often. Even when Bosh would get a touch he was looking to pass immediately. Getting Bosh going early should be a huge priority for James and head coach Eric Spoelstra. Hibbert has been free to plant in the paint because Bosh has not factored in the offense.
Getting Wade going is a matter of chemistry with James. Wade is a slasher by trade. The Heat are at their best in transition and cutting to the basket. Back cuts and easy dunks broke Wade out of his slump last year against the Pacers. There's no reason not to approach game 7 the same way. If there is friction between James and Wade they have 48 hours to get it sorted out. Wade is limited, but he should be much more productive. James can't turn his back on him now. He has to take it upon himself to get Wade involved, just like he did in game 4 against the Pacers last year.
Having Anderson's interior presence will be a boost after missing game 6 for being an idiot, and Mike Miller should eat some of Allen's minutes after he provided a fourth quarter spark last night. But, it will be up to the Big 3 to play like a trio if the Heat want to advance. If they are united, they will find a way to win. Together.