For the second time in the series, Miami took Chicago’s hardest punch.
This time, instead of buckling at the knees and falling backwards like it did in Game One, Miami took two settling steps back, regained its composure, and came back with an even harder uppercut that sent Chicago to the floor unconscious.
Once again, the Heat displayed the type of physical and mental fortitude that has defined the team this postseason.
In Game Four, you can’t make the case that Derrick Rose did not get enough help.
The regular season MVP had two teammates--Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer-- who chipped in 20 points apiece.
What it came down to was the Heat’s defense continuing to be a thorn in Rose’s side.
In what has become a running theme, Rose was again limited to an abysmal shooting night (8-for-27). For the series, Rose is shooting an Iverson-like 36%.
Not exactly an MVP performance.
Having beaten the formerly dominant Boston Celtics in five games and now on the way to doing the same to Chicago, through sheer dominance, Miami is not only silencing its critics but also making the regular season awards look a little bit silly in hindsight.
Speaking of the awards, where should we begin?
How about with Pat Riley sharing the award for Executive of the Year with Chicago Bulls Executive Gar Forman?
You’re saying the other executives, the people who vote for the award, thought Forman did just as good of a job this past summer by overpaying Carlos Boozer and not signing Ray Allen? Really?
Forman creating the eastern conference version of the Utah Jazz is as good as landing the most coveted three free agents of the last decade?
It’s hard to block out the faint scent of vindictiveness.
LEBRON MAKING HIS MVP CASE
In Game Four, LeBron James once again made about as strong of a case as humanly possible for why he should have defended his title as the league’s Most Valuable Player.
No, after “The Decision,” there was no way he was going to win the award for the third consecutive year.
But that doesn’t mean he didn’t deserve to.
Rose had a phenomenal regular season, but as was the case when Michael Jordan met Karl Malone in the ‘97 Finals, the year Malone prevented Jordan from winning what would have been the second of three consecutive MVPs, the playoffs have served as the ultimate basketball tribunal.
Right now it’s hard to argue that James isn’t head and shoulders above Rose figuratively as well as literally.
A 6-foot-9, 275-pound linebacker in basketball shorts should not be able to stay in front of the quickest point guard in the league, but that’s exactly what James did in crunch time.
“It’s really hard when a 6-foot-8 guy can easily defend you,” Rose told the media after the game
James again played the entire second half, on his way to 49 relentless minutes.
Lately, he's not just carrying the offense, he's also been the defensive lynchpin and a beast on the glass.
Plainly put, there's nothing he isn't doing.
In each of the four games, James has played more than 40 minutes and is currently averaging 45 minutes per game for the series. Unsurprisingly, James is leading all players in postseason minutes played (43.9 per game).
To give you some perspective, James is playing more minutes this postseason than Michael Jordan in all but one year (the ’86 first round sweep against the Celtics).
Forget for a second the ridiculous dunks and highlight plays. To have the kind of stamina and physical endurance that the 275-pound James possesses is testament to just how freakishly athletic he is.
Once in a generation athlete? More like once in a lifetime.
WADE COMING THROUGH DEFENSIVELY
James took over while Dwyane Wade continued to uncharacteristically struggle.
Even the most loyal Wade fans had to be calling for James to get the ball in the fourth quarter.
Wade again shot a Rose-like 5-for-16 in Game Four.
Against Chicago he’s averaging 18 points per game and shooting just below 40%.
To Chicago’s credit, Ronnie Brewer has defended Wade about as well as one could hope to.
He constantly prods and harasses Wade much in the same way Kirk Hinrich used to bother him.
The big difference between Wade and Rose at this point in their respective careers comes on the defensive end.
Unlike Rose, when Wade is struggling with his shot he can still impact a game.
Last night it was with his blocks, two of which came in the last minute of overtime.
Considering how much energy Wade has put in on that end of the court this season, it’s almost shocking that he didn’t make the All-NBA Defensive first team. Or the second team for that matter.
For the seventh time in his career, Wade again led all guards in blocked shots.
This year, he blocked more shots than any small forward as well, including his teammate James, who he nearly doubled.
Instead, Kobe Bryant was given the first team nod ahead of Wade on the defensive team and overall.
Considering just far Bryant’s game has slipped, you have to wonder how seriously coaches actually take these votes.
Miami bias aside, it’s hard to imagine L.A. getting swept by Dallas if you replace Bryant with Wade.
Somehow you can't see the 38-year-old Kidd shutting down Wade the way he did Bryant.
There’s a good chance we’ll find out for certain in the Finals.
More than anything, what these Playoffs clearly prove is these awards should not be given out at the end of the regular season.
Maybe lesser awards like Sixth Man, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, etc., but not the big ones.
If we, as the media, are going to significantly factor in postseason accomplishments when deciding which players go into the Hall of Fame, shouldn’t playoff performance also matter when voting in All-NBA teams?
Wouldn’t it make more sense to have the MVP award factor in the first two or three rounds?
And if that were the case, would Rose still win it after his less than impressive performances against Indiana and Atlanta?
At the very least, since half of them won't have their own teams to worry about, the coaches and executives who vote for these awards would have the chance to closely watch these players for two rounds.
And when you look at some of the votes, that might be more than many of them have seen all year.
In the past, a number of writers have suggested that these votes be public.
And why not? Anything that reduces incompetence has to be a good thing.
Maybe the same players would still have won the awards, but at least silly votes would be more reprehensible.
Wade has often mentioned how overlooked by the league he feels lately, but it’s hard to imagine him being too bothered by any of it if he finds himself in the Finals again.
And with a win Thursday, that’s exactly where he will be.