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.


At 5/26/2005 5:50 PM, Blogger shoefly said...

Speaking of Gordon, I don't think we ever really tackled him here. Some of the stuff he did this year was too big to go without answer. Will he, like Wade did this year, make that huge jump. I don't know yet that he has that Jordan/Iverson/Wade competitiveness, the kind that you can just see in every movement, but if he does, what's his future?

At 5/26/2005 6:11 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i think it depends on what he can do as a starter. i know he usually plays a lot of minutes whether or not he starts, but putting him in the starting line-up means they expect him to have that fire for a full 48. you've got to figure that, if he doesn't, they'll keep him in his present role, since duhon and hinrich are a better backcourt as far as defensve and ball movement are concerned.

another question: can you imagine basketball feting a late-game specialist the way baseball has the closer? the sixth man is a "spark off the bench" but never your assumed go-to guy, and rarely the person you're expecting to take big shots. if gordon can consistently put up 12-20 points in the fourth, could he be the first? if so, could they concievably keep his minutes low until the end of the game?

At 5/26/2005 6:48 PM, Blogger shoefly said...

Sometimes in soccer they hold out a guy till the last 15 minutes or so. A guy who is exceptionally fast, so he can run right by the tired opponents. I just don't think it could work in the nba though, and even if it could I'd hate to be robbed of 40 minutes of gordon.

At 5/26/2005 10:46 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i also don't think there's been enough talk about the role of the triangle in the lakers/heat comparisons. the triangle in la was built around getting shaq the ball, while miami places equal importances on giving wade the opportunity to make something happen.

can you imagine what kobe could do in this offense, if you just substituted him for wade on this season's heat? that is a truly frightening thought.


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