I just want to get this off my chest. Over the last few days we’ve been hearing ad nauseum how Chris Bosh is really the ‘straw that stirs the Miami drink’, so to speak. Well, to me, that’s just garbage, as evidenced by today’s result. I’m sorry for the bluntness, but I’ve seen too many games this year where Chris Bosh has had zero impact on the game. Sure, he’s an important cog and the road ahead will be harder without him, but make no mistake – LeBron James and D-Wade drive this bus. The Heat are in this predicament because they missed a few bunnies down the stretch of Game 2, Wade’s subpar performance and their role players have been bloody awful. And Chris Bosh or no Chris Bosh, a deep and talented Indiana team was always going to make this a tough series for Miami (see my second round prediction).

With that said, on to the votes.

3 votes – LeBron James. He had his mits all over this one. 40 points, 18 rebounds (9 in the fourth quarter), 9 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks in basically a do-or–die playoff game, is just an epic performance. It was really the closest thing I’ve seen to his historic 48-point outburst against Detroit in Game 5 of the 2007 ECF, when he hit 29 of Cleveland’s final 30 points. He went about it in a different way of course, but across the board he was that good today and it was refreshing to see.

Down by 10 points in the third quarter it looked like the game was slipping away from Miami, but that’s when James and Wade went on a tear and obliterated Indiana with 14 points apiece in the quarter. And get this; in a stretch spanning from late in the second quarter to midway through the fourth quarter, James and Wade scored 49 of Miami’s 51 points (Indiana scored 43 points over that same stretch). And that’s not a misprint. The Pacers had no answer to the James/Wade assault, and if both these guys can play up to their abilities for the remainder of the series (questionable), then they’ll come out on top. If not, they’re in for a dogfight and Indiana could send them packing.

The stage is set for LeBron to take over these playoffs and drive this Miami team (Bosh or no Bosh) to the NBA Finals. And I have no doubt that he is absolutely capable of that. But, as good as this performance was and for all the progress he’s made (and he has made some real strides this year), those ‘issues’ (between the ears) still remain and threaten to haunt him on the biggest stage. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always liked LeBron and would love nothing more than to see him hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy and put all this nonsense to bed. But I can’t forget what I saw in the Finals last year and the flashes of similar hesitant play (in big moments) shown this season. Until he demonstrates that he can consistently conquer those demons and get the late-game gorilla off his back, I fear the end result will ultimately be the same – coming up short. But I would love to be proved wrong, LeBron.

2 votes – Dwayne Wade. I’m always bemused by the short memories and overreactions in the media. Do people not remember Wade’s subpar performance in the ECF last year against Chicago, followed by his otherworldly play in the Finals? To write this guy off after a couple games – and that’s what people were doing – is just crazy. Can’t these elite-level guys have a few bad games every now and then? Doesn’t Wade’s track record speak for itself?

And I know he crossed the line with coach Spo in Game 3, but he was rightfully pissed with his performance, and Spoelstra calling him soft didn’t help; it was like poking a wounded animal.

Perhaps his devastating 30 point (22 in the second half), 9 rebound, 6 assist effort in Game 4 will bring some people to their senses. Until his next off-game that is.

1 vote – Tim Duncan. Can’t say I’m disappointed to see the back of this series, because the Clippers were out of their depth and then some. They tried valiantly in Game 4, but the Spurs were not going to waste this opportunity as they snuffed out the Clips behind a vintage performance from Tim Duncan (21 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks). As I said in the second round preview, they’re a well-oiled machine and it’s going to take an elite squad to knock them off in a seven-game series.

Speaking of which; the Spurs better rest up because they’ll be facing a formidable OKC team in the WCF.

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