Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 5/20/12
INDIANAPOLIS They have shown flash. They have shown talent and style. They have shown gall and conceit. They've just been a great show, or an awful example, depending on how you look at it. But this might have been the first time on the court that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have shown together that they have heart. Two years into this circus, and for the first time in a big moment, James and Wade had to dig deep. And they did it, coming up with huge games and beating Indiana 101-93 on Sunday to tie the series at two games apiece. "The last 48 hours have just been mental,'' Wade said. On Thursday, he had played the worst big game of his life and sat in front of his locker afterward, head down and both feet in a bucket of ice. On Sunday, he scored 30 points, including 22 in the second half, and showed up for his post-game media conference in a three-piece suit. In between, he went to Indiana University to visit his old coach and mentor, Tom Crean. And Crean, who coached Wade at Marquette, gave him a tour of the campus, and then pulled out films of Wade making shots and missing them. They compared and contrasted, a superstar going back to the basics, getting into the nitty-gritty. "They made me a student of the game,'' Wade said. "It was great for me just getting away, and to get that energy I needed from him. . . "Sometimes the game is funny. Sometimes shots you always make, even since you were a little kid, don't go in. You just have to work on it.'' Meanwhile, James dug, too. And he found his old, dominant self, the guy from his Cleveland Cavaliers days who used to take over and lead his team in the big moment. This new version of James had been looking for the easy way out, moving to South Beach to play with Wade and Chris Bosh. On Sunday, James was looking to dominate from the start, and to make sure Indiana center Roy Hibbert didn't get all the rebounds like he did in Game 3. At first, it wasn't working. James was out of control, missing shots wildly. That's when he showed something. Instead of backing off and hoping Wade would take over, James just kept running things, kept insisting. The team was about to fall behind hopelessly in this series. The whole Miami Heat project was looking shaky. Bosh was out hurt; Wade was trying to fight his demons. So James scored 40 points. Grabbed 18 rebounds. Had nine assists. "I felt like I had to do whatever it took for us to win,'' he said. James and Wade dominated the second half together. When they're on, you can't stop them. And you can look at this a couple of ways. If they are so much better than everyone else, then why aren't they "on'' almost all the time? In the conference final against Chicago last year, they dominated that moment, too. They just started rolling without pressure. That was The Show that this group always had in it. But that's not what happened Sunday. This wasn't just the inevitable, the cream rising. These guys were in real trouble. Wade had been playing and behaving like a grumpy old man. They have turned off so many people starting with The Decision and the little dance counting up titles in an absurd pre-dynasty celebration that I think hope in general was that they finally were going to eat their words. Lose to Indiana? It is the opposite of the flash of South Beach. In fact, you want an example of Indiana being hip? The Pacers had former Brooklyn Dodger Carl Erskine, from 50 years ago, playing the national anthem on a harmonica. Anyway, you might want the Heat to fail, but what they did Sunday was so much better. It's hard to explain, but they were looking for each other, moving perfectly in step. James knew what Wade was looking for, what he needed, and where he planned to be. Wade got one nice pass from James, leading to a dunk, and told LeBron that that was exactly what he needed: to see the ball leave his hands and go into the basket. They lifted each other. "That's beautiful basketball, or Miami basketball, when we are able to do that,'' Wade said. Now, before I go way overboard, let me say this: This is exactly what championship teams are supposed to do. Adapt and adjust to win. Coach Erik Spoelstra, always making sure he gets involved in the credit, did talk to the players between games about all they had been through together in the past two years. He amped up the team to play tougher. He made adjustments to spread out the offense and get Wade more space. "I wanted them, really, to embrace the difficult,'' Spoelstra said. That's exactly what they did, particularly Wade, who rarely has to face the same "difficult'' that James does. Wade's body is breaking down, and he's seen as not holding up his end of the Big Three deal. Even Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen spoke up. After he saw Wade getting in Spoelstra's face in Game 3, Guillen was asked what he would have done if Wade did that to him. "I will kick his (butt),'' Guillen said. So will the Heat take this newfound heart all the way to a title? No. This story is not that neat. The Heat aren't going to be able to win the title without Bosh. They just aren't constructed right, with all the team salary going to three guys. The rest of the team is a void. Udonis Haslem did score 14 points Sunday. And Mario Chalmers played well in Game 3. But the Heat can't count on them. And the burden is too much, physically, for Wade and James to win 10 more postseason games by themselves. Remember: Last year they wore out in the NBA Finals against Dallas. Well, there is no way they can undo their public persona now. But this wasn't just dancing and counting up imaginary championships. Maybe the first time, this was the identity of a real champion.
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