Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 5/28/12
MIAMI The way the two have been playing lately, the national perception is LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and three guys from a beer league could win in the NBA playoffs. Their Miami Heat teammates might not necessarily agree. But they're still spending plenty of time these days giving the two stars the business. "We joke," said Heat forward Shane Battier. "We told them, 'I know you guys try to petition the NBA to try to change the game of basketball to a two-on-two basketball game.' Unfortunately, that fell on deaf ears. They're going to have to put three players out there not named LeBron and Dwyane. So we'll have to take our chances. We say that in jest." The Heat took their chances Monday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against Boston. James and Wade combined for 54 points, which might actually seem like a scant amount considering they had averaged a combined 65.7 points in their three previous playoff games. Still, it was good enough. The Heat won 93-79 at AmericanAirlines Arena for their fourth straight win since they figured out life without injured Chris Bosh isn't so bad. It might seem as if the Heat lately are simply daring foes to try to stop James and Wade, which is somewhat true. But if there weren't a few other players at least doing something, it wouldn't work. Those who don't answer to LeBron or DWade are referred to by Battier as "The Other Guys." And the best of those Monday were Battier, who had 10 rebounds and 10 points, point guard Mario Chalmers, whose solid defense helped hold counterpart Rajon Rondo to a modest seven assists with four turnovers, and swingman Mike Miller, who was 2-of-2 on three-pointers while scoring eight needed points off the bench. Maybe it wasn't a tremendous amount provided by "The Other Guys." But all James and Wade need is just a little help here and there and they'll do the rest. "We're all roll players," Battier said. "But Dwyane and LeBron's roll is to be megastars." They've handled that job quite well lately. With 32 points Monday, James is averaging 32.5 over his past four games. With 22, Wade is averaging 30.3 during that stretch. Each also picked some other ways to make a huge imprint Monday. James grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked three shots. Wade handed out seven assists and blocked two shots. "And defense too," Boston coach Doc Rivers said of what the two did against his team. "LeBron and Wade, their defense was phenomenal They're cat quick. That's who they are. You know that going into the series As much as you can watch it and prepare for it, I do think you need to face it once to see it, and get used to it I thought their speed at times overwhelmed us." If Rivers suddenly can get his aging perimeter guys, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, to somehow catch up to James and Wade by Wednesday's Game 4, then he's got to be the best coach going. The younger Pacers watched James and Wade continuously run circles around them in losing the last three games of an East semifinal even while they were doing whatever they could to slow the pair. Of course, Rondo might have his own way of dealing with the two stars. "Nothing dirty, but those guys got to hit the deck, too," said Rondo, disgusted about the ease in which James and Wade got to the basket. That comment prompted James to do little more than shrug. "They feel like they need to put us on the floor, hard-foul us," said James, who shot 13-of-22 (59.1 percent) while Wade was even more efficient at 8-of-13 (61.6 percent). "It doesn't change our approach." And why should it? After Bosh, once a member of a group called the Big Three, went down May 13 with an abdominal strain, the remaining two stars had to figure out some things in the first two games without Bosh. They lost both to Indiana to fall behind 2-1 in that series. Since then, though, they've won the three straight over the Pacers and Monday's opener over Boston while winning the four by an average of 16.5 points. It remains to be seen if Bosh will be return during the East finals, but does it really matter with the way James and Wade are playing together? "We just feel more comfortable on the court, no matter who is out on the floor with us," James said. "We try to complement one another. When one guy is flowing, we try to feed off each other's energy and always try to stay in attack mode It's definitely a high comfort level now." Both guys insist they're in more of a team mode right now even if they're piling up awesome individual stats. Wade admitted the two last year often played what he called "hero ball." "A lot of times we played, we relied on our ability too much," Wade said. "And it can get other guys just standing around and not being involved Just getting more comfortable with our game after playing a full year together." Wade's comfort level with a variety of teammates was shown in that five of his assists went to members of "The Other Guys." Still, though, James and Wade are going to do most of the heavy lifting. And there's been no indication yet they won't be able to keep up this tremendous pace even as the minutes pile up. On Monday, James played 44 minutes and Wade 38, making their averages over the last four games 42.8 and 37.8, respectively (James averaged 37.5 minutes and Wade 33.2 during the regular season). To keep as much wear and tear as possible off the two, it's no wonder both were driven in golf carts to a post-game press conference on the opposite end of AmericanAirlines Arena from their locker rooms. For now, perhaps James and Wade aren't playing hero ball. But they sure are playing superhero ball. Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @christomasson
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