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AFTER THEIR SIDELINE DUSTUP IN THE 94--75 GAME 3 LOSS AT Indiana, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and Dwyane Wade met privately at the team hotel to hash out their differences and cook up ways to get the struggling Wade better looks. We need you, Spoelstra told Wade. Three nights later Wade delivered 30 points, nine rebounds and six assists, helping Miami tie the series at two games apiece with a 101--93 win.
Wade and Spoelstra are cool, which is good because the Heat would not have survived the series—which it needed six games to finish—without a major contribution from its 6' 4" shooting guard. The absence of Chris Bosh, out with an abdominal strain, made superlative performances from Wade and LeBron James essential. (LeBron's stunning line in Game 4 included 40 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists.) The 6' 11" Bosh has been criticized for being the weakest link of the Big Three, but he is an irreplaceable part of the Heat. Miami initiates its offense through Bosh close to 40% of the time, and he is a threat to score from the low post to the elbow to the top of the key. Miami thrives on the pick-and-pop with Bosh, a 49.5% shooter from 10 to 15 feet this season, according to hoopdata.com. "We could just throw the ball into him, and he could create some offense for us," said forward Shane Battier. "Now we are much more reliant on Dwyane and LeBron to put pressure on the defense."
The Heat's biggest headache was 7' 2" Pacers center Roy Hibbert. Without Bosh, said Hibbert after Indiana's Game 3 win, "I can wander a little bit more and make the paint look a little more crowded and block more shots."
Spoelstra adjusted his offense on the fly after Bosh was injured late in the first half of Game 1. Pick-and-pops were replaced by pick-and-rolls, with Miami hoping to get a few baskets out of big men Ronny Turiaf and Joel Anthony by pushing them toward the rim. Together they posted 49 points, 43 rebounds and 17 blocks in the series.
The Heat caught a break in Game 5 when the Pacers, who saw starters Danny Granger and David West go down mid-game with injuries, turned in a 34% shooting night, its worst playoff performance since 2005, as Miami won by 32. Then in Game 6, James and Wade combined for 69 points and 16 rebounds, including 32 points and 11 boards in the second half as the Heat put the hammer down.
Miami's supporting cast made important contributions in the series: There was Udonis Haslem, a mini-Bosh with a sweet stroke, knocking down four jumpers in the last 5:56 of Game 4. There was point guard Mario Chalmers, who put up points in bunches (leading both teams with 25 points in Game 3), and there was Battier and forward Mike Miller, delivering with timely outside shooting late in the series.
Ultimately, though, this was the LeBron and Dwyane show, and they made sure that Miami would go on to face a worthy foe from Boston.