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NBA Playoff Recap - East First Round, Game 4

(5) Miami 101, (4) Boston 92 - Boston leads series 3-1

Sunday, April 25, turned out to be a day when basketball analysis wasn't all that complicated. In a sport where teams generally need to be balanced and blended, one blindingly awesome superstar or one towering individual performance can occasionally mask a mountain of deficiencies.

In most postseason games, NBA teams need many heroes to step forward and make their presence felt. Second, third and fourth options must arise in order to keep defenses honest while providing needed support with help defense and weakside rebounding. Once in a while, though, the supremacy of one man can truly overshadow everything else on a court. This was true with George Hill of San Antonio against Dallas. It was true with LeBron James of Cleveland against Chicago. And, in the first game of this special Sunday, it was most definitely the case with Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat, who singlehandedly carried his deficient team and denied the Boston Celtics the satisfaction of a four-game sweep at American Airlines Arena.

Wade was simply spectacular on a day when most basketball people felt the Celtics were going to put Miami out of its misery. Series that go to 3-0 in any sport usually acquire an aura of inevitability which leads Game 4 to become the clincher more often than not. Whenever a series goes to five games, it's Game 3 which usually becomes the losing team's one win. However, Miami managed to buck that trend with this Game 4 triumph.

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Just how amazing was Wade in this early-afternoon affair? The man who carried this franchise to the 2006 NBA title acted like a leader against the 2008 champions from Beantown. Wade scored 46 points, a franchise playoff record, while tallying 30 of them in the second half, also a playoff record for the Heat. Wade led Miami to an 18-point first-half lead and excelled in the game's opening stages, leading a rational person to think that a sweep would be easily averted. However, when Boston roared back to take a six-point lead after three quarters (77-71), it became very hard - if not impossible - to imagine how a rapidly-sinking Miami team would find the will or the way to get off the deck and prolong its season for at least one more game and one more plane flight back to New England.

That's when Wade did what superstars do. He flatly pronounced that the Heat's flames would still burn, and that their season wouldn't end on their home court.

Wade took over and denied coach Doc Rivers' Celtics from celebrating a series win in South Florida. The same man who has been holding up the Heat for the past several seasons did much the same thing in the fourth quarter against professional basketball's most storied franchise. Throwing down four 3-pointers before Boston's defense could set up, Wade established a ridiculously high standard of excellence and forced Rivers to double-team him at midcourt, immediately after crossing the time line. Only then did Wade not score, but by then, the Heat accumulated a multi-possession lead. That advantage held up when Ray Allen - Boston's 90-percent foul shooter - missed three straight free throws in the final two minutes of regulation. Moments later, Kevin Garnett missed two more foul shots as the Celtics - who can use every bit of rest they can get - lost the chance to get a head start on preparations for the Cleveland Cavaliers in round two.

Dwyane Wade's performance on Sunday was made all the more poignant by the realization that he's entering free agency on July 1. Perhaps he might return to South Florida, but there's also the chance he'll leave for another team. If this was his last home game as a member of the Miami Heat, he sure left a lasting memory for his fan base.


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By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Senior Staff Writer

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