The Miami Heat championship Soul Train line was temporarily derailed because the Chicago Bulls really do eat raw meat. The savage defense they played on Monday night has thrown a minor kink in what media outlets have been asserting is a sure-shot Miami repeat.
The playoffs are kind of bugged if you think about it. This has been LeBron James' week, as the NBA celebrated his fourth MVP and sang his praises 24-7. Looks like the Bulls–who resemble a M.A.S.H. unit–didn't get the memo. It was expected that LBJ would just turn it up when he had to, make the clutch shots, and lead Miami to a Game 1 victory. A couple of crunch time air balls later and we got ourselves a series.
LeBron didn't shoot well at all, going just 1-6 in the first half and finishing with a modest 24 points and Chris Bosh was a hologram going just 3-10 from the field. It seems like overall they were rusty from the layoff after sweeping Milwaukee, but the biggest concern for Miami right now should be Dwyane Wade's knees.
Moving forward, LeBron will return to form and Bosh always seems to produce a big-time game when they most need it. Wade is always money, even when he's battling injuries and personal dilemmas, but each season is a new year and he's played a ton of basketball. He's played through myriad injuries, answered the bell and performed like a future Hall of Famer. During the 2012 playoffs, Wade helped get LBJ his first chip on a left knee that required post-championship surgery. This latest right knee bone bruise made him questionable for Monday night, but of course he gutted it out. Wade supporters say, if he did it last year, he'll do it again. We selfishly wish this immortality for our heroes. However, something about this season is a little different.
You can tell his injuries are concerning him more than in past years, because there is an uncertainty in his remarks whenever he broaches the topic.
"No matter what I’m dealing with, knock on wood, thank God I’m able to step on the court and play," Wade told the Miami Herald. "This game has lost some great players so far in this postseason to where they couldn’t play. My objective is to be out on the court with my teammates in whatever capacity that I can.”
Wade understands his importance to his team and the NBA. Some stars would rather ride pine than play hurt and risk humiliation and criticism. Listening to him, however, doesn't really give a boost of confidence that he's even going to make it through the playoffs. Unless he's playing possum, the loss of Wade for any significant period of time would change the entire dynamics of Miami's attempted repeat.
It's too early to panic. We are dealing with a guy who's as tough as anybody to grace an NBA arena, but let's be honest. Cats aren't harping on the potential severity of it, because Wade's injury doesn't fit the Hollywood script that everyone wants to write. It's got to be alarming when a guy as confident as him can't totally confirm that he's ready to go at full strength. It's worth watching as this series progresses.
The Wade we've come to know doesn't "chip in" a modest 14 points. He rim-rocks, hits daggers and is always active on both ends of the floor. If you're just playing the basketball odds, this could be the year that Wade doesn't hold up enough for Miami to "gut it out" with him at 88 percent. It's always harder to repeat, and although Miami's success is a foregone conclusion to pop-culture zombies, Chicago is going to exploit any potential injury or lack of production, and like a boxer who gets jabbed for 10 rounds to soften him up for the knockout punch, every game Miami plays is a negative for the increasingly beat up body of their essential assassin.