It’s certainly been a competitive NBA Finals so far, no doubt about that. It’s also been very revealing on several important points, some of which shouldn’t be all that surprising to more analytical fans. Among the points:
* Dwyane Wade is the leader of the Heat. If anyone doubted so before, it should be clear to everyone now. I always figured Wade should be the main scoring option if Miami wanted the most success, and so far in the Finals, that’s exactly what has worked best for them. As good as LeBron is, he’s better in a facilitator role on this team, allowing the more clutch Wade to lead the way with big shots and the bulk of the scoring load. Many Cleveland fans (and anti-LeBron people in general) are going on and on about LeBron being the second banana, but as long as he wins the ring, I don’t think he cares that much that he’s no longer the man. Still, it’s nice to see him and others fall back down to Earth and hopefully drop the Jordan comparisons once and for all, because LeBron is not even the best player on his team right now.
* Miami’s supporting cast can step up after all (even Bosh, with his poor field goal percentage so far in the series, hit what was essentially the game-winning shot of game three, and has played excellent defense). Everyone with any sense knew they would have to, and so far, we’ve seen big shots from guys like Bosh and Chalmers, hustle play from guys like Miller and Haslem, and better movement on the offensive end (with the one big exception being their epic collapse in the last half of the fourth quarter in game two, although I think that was mostly the fault of LeBron more than the support players).
* Shawn Marion is the next best player on Dallas after Dirk. Terry can score in bunches, but it’s Marion who has been the most consistent performer for Dallas after Dirk in this series, and it’s mostly Marion’s defense that is making LeBron look rather pedestrian so far. Many people thought he was way past his prime after he left Phoenix – me included – but he still has a lot left in the tank, it seems.
* Homecourt isn’t as big a deal as it has been in some other series. Miami split their first two games, and Dallas just lost on their homefloor. That’s how tough these teams are.
So what do you think? I can’t wait for game four; this series could very well go the full seven games, and even though no team has come back from a 2-1 deficit in the current Finals format, I wouldn’t be terribly shocked if the Mavericks become the first team to do so. Miami has the momentum now, but it isn’t a huge momentum by any means; they better not have any significant issues with LeBron trying to be the hero instead of Wade, or the supporting cast disappearing, because Dallas has been unrelenting.