Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 5/25/12
INDIANAPOLIS We're getting to see how high two guys can fly. With the Miami Heat down two games to one a few days ago, old man Dwyane Wade got five years younger. LeBron James did everything, even became a closer. It was surely among the greatest three-game playoff stretches for two teammates in NBA history. And the Heat eliminated Indiana Thursday night, 105-93 in Game 6 to advance to the Eastern Conference finals. James and Wade showed that they're the superstars they say they are. They were intimidating. There were poised. They were unbeatable. They looked like champions. "The series brought out the best in both of them," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "They knew they had to play at an extremely high level for us to have a chance." James and Wade saved the Heat. And credit Spoelstra, too, for having their ear. James said Spoelstra made "unbelievable adjustments. . .Just like he said we played spectacular, he coached spectacular and put us in a position to win." In the past three games, James scored a total of 98 points. Wade had 99. And it's fair to say that Indiana panicked Thursday, starting late in the third quarter. But while Pacers coach Frank Vogel said that was a function of their inexperience, there was only partial truth in that. The bigger truth is that James and Wade pressured them into that choke. They bullied them into it. The Pacers kept telling themselves, and everyone else, throughout the series that they were never going to back down. It's easy to say until the big moment comes. By Thursday morning, Spoelstra was complaining that the Pacers were cheap-shotting. "The league does not have a problem with hard fouls on our two main guys," he said. "In nine games now, there's been over a dozen hard fouls to the face, some of the tomahawk variety. Some have drawn blood." Actually, the cheapshots were going in both directions, with more coming from the Heat. But the point is, the Pacers were trying to talk themselves into being tough enough for James and Wade. It's a pretend thing that guys will do at times. Intimidation coming your way? Roll up your sleeves and talk tough. That can get you only so far. And it impressively got the Pacers a lead after three games. But with 12.6 seconds left in the first half of Game 4, Indiana's Roy Hibbert put a hard foul on Wade, who was driving to the basket. When Wade started to move away from Hibbert, there was Indiana's Danny Granger, going chest-to-chest with Wade. Wade yelled at him: "You're soft." From that one moment, the Heat dominated the series. In crunchtime, the fight was on between pretend toughness and the real intimidating force of greatness. But there's something uncomfortable, too, about two guys doing so much. It's about the Heat's construction. It isn't right. In some ways, the Heat are built more for flash and glamour than for championships. And with Chris Bosh still out hurt, the demand is on Wade and James to keep doing what they did in these past three games. Remember, they did it against Indiana, which is a good team, but not a great one. If the Heat get through Boston or Philadelphia in the next round, then they're going to have to face a special team in the Finals. San Antonio and Oklahoma City both have depth and superstars. What I'm saying is this: If we're finding out now how high two guys can fly, it's still questionable how far they can do it. The Heat spent so much of their money on established stars that they didn't have much left for other guys. If you look at the old championship Chicago Bulls teams with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, they also had Dennis Rodman, one of the greatest rebounders of all time. Ron Harper was a stud defender. Toni Kukoc had height and versatility and great passing. John Paxson made 3-pointers. Those guys were role players. The Heat's guys are barely more than bit parts. Spoelstra said that the Heat need for at least one of those guys to step up out of his normal box.'' It did happen against Indiana. Mario Chalmers had one game. Udonis Haslem had a game. On Thursday, Mike Miller made four 3-pointers. In the Finals, if the Heat get there, they're going to need a bit part to step up each day, and for Wade and James to keep flying this high. Keep in mind: James wore out during last year's Finals. How far can these guys carry the team? Are they just that great? Honestly, if Bosh doesn't get back, it's hard to see Wade and James playing like this all the way to the end. But that's just a theory. And when James plays one of the great playoff games in history in Game 4, and Wade makes 17 of 25 shots for 41 points Thursday in Game 6, you start questioning your theories. The Heat are a traveling rock show for their flash and expectations. James and Wade walked off together Thursday night. Wade was wearing bright pink pants, pink shoes and even had a pink wrap around his left index finger. "Don't take a picture of me next to that," James said, as he stepped ahead of Wade by a few steps. "I'm not walking with that. I've already been in too many blogs." In the past week, they added gutsy play to the great show. They raised their own games out of necessity, and it was something beautiful to see. Now, for the hard part: They'll have to keep their games right there.
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