Up for grabs
This pretty much sums it up. If Wade plays at a superhuman level, he can keep the Heat neck-in-neck with the Pistons' cast of borderline All-Stars; you aren't going to see any of the Detroit troopers step up and try to match Wade's brilliance, because that's just not the way they roll. Doing so would put them over the top in this series, but it's not hard to see that, in some ways, their winning strategy is premised on not having anyone raise up their game, or even take over for long stretches of time.
(The weirdest thing about the Wallaces, Rip, and Chauncey is that you can't really imagine any of them being that much better on a less evenly-distributed team. Brown gets just as much out of them as you can without exposing their flaws. Billups, who has the most star potential, might even be worse in another system.)
Shaq's not going to go much longer without having a major statement game. Even though the Wallaces have historically been two of the best in the Association at covering O'Neal one-on-one, the Diesel will get his once he's healthy. Wade, though, is both more vulnerable and more deadly. He's a young, less-than-gigantic shooting guard with some holes in his game (limited range, not nearly as explosive going right); at the same time, when he's on, Wade's can put up points with blinding speed and facility, while Shaq has to set up in a half-court set. Shaq can be contained by disrupting the rest of the offense, but give Wade the ball anywhere on the floor and there's a good chance he'll score before you know what hit you.
As tremendous as last night's performance was, or so I hear (at the risk of forfeting all of my cred, I had a going-away potluck to attend), you've got to keep in mind the flukishness of a twenty-point quarter. Granted, this season saw Gordon and Arenas make their reps based on single-period outbursts. But it still speaks to the unpredictability of Wade's dominance in this series—twenty points in twelve minutes against the league's most rugged defense can't be counted on every night. And without that sparkling quarter, which both put points on the board and took the Pistons out of their trademark anti-momentum (never get going too much and they can't tear you down), the Pistons might be going home up 2-0.
Even when the whole league was terrified of summertime Shaq, the situation was amplified by his having Kobe backing him up. To beat the Pistons, the Heat are going to have to take Shaq, and whatever he gives them, for granted. They're going to live and die by Wade's ability to make the ultimate team suffer at the hands of an individual virtuoso, something that only Iverson has ever come close to doing since you-know-who retired the second time. If there is a legtimate Jordan 2 theme here, this is it.