DALLAS -- LeBron James finishes Game 3 with 17 points and nine assists. He had four assists in the fourth quarter, including the no-look, behind-the-back pass to Chris Bosh, who drained the game-winning jumper in the 88-86 win on the Mavs' home floor.
Yet, James is being ripped for shrinking from the superstar spotlight? The Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls might quarrel with that notion. The Dallas Mavericks likely would, too. It was just a week ago that Wade was the one queried about the state of his health -- he must be injured! -- because his scoring dipped against the Bulls in the East finals while James hit the big shots and, by the way, shut down Derrick Rose.
Yet, here is Wade tormenting the Mavs like it's 2006 -- sans the free-throw parade -- averaging 29.0 points on 56.7 percent shooting. James? He's averaging 20.3 points on 51.1 percent shooting, 6.0 assists and 6.7 rebounds. And then there's this: In the fourth quarter of the three games, the man James has guarded, mostly Jason Terry, has scored five points. Terry was 0-of-4 in the fourth quarter Sunday night.
"I think you're concentrating on one side of the floor. All you're looking at is the stat sheet," James quipped at a reporter who suggested he is 'shrinking' from the moment. "Honestly, I'm a two-way player. Since D-Wade had it going offensively, so we allow him to handle the ball, bring it on offensively. You should watch the film again and see what I did defensively. You'll ask me a better question tomorrow."
For James, the only 6-foot-8, 260-pound forward in the league today that can run the point, to be ripped for not scoring 30 points a night seems, at best, shortsighted. Consider that he draws the Mavs' best defender, Shawn Marion, and is instantly swarmed on the perimeter. Wade benefits from the lighter defensive matchup against DeShawn Stevenson, the ultra-competitive, but still 38-year-old Jason Kidd and the 6-2 Terry.
The matchups dictate that Wade should be the dominant scorer with James serving more as a facilitator. His 6.0 assists in the Finals are one fewer than Kidd, one of the best passers in the game's history, is averaging.
The Mavs have to find an answer for this two-headed monster that has the Mavs constantly playing from behind and making it difficult for Dallas to find consistent scoring beyond Dirk Nowitzki.
If the Mavs are to win their first championship, they'll have to win consecutive games in this series at some point. Games 4 and 5 at home would seem to be their best chance. It won't be easy. The Heat have not lost more than one game in any series this postseason.
The last time the Heat lost two in a row? Turn back the calendar to March 8, the last of a five-game skid.
"Games get tougher as you get deeper into the playoffs. We know that," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "I don't know the number of times we climbed out of holes, but it's just always going to make the game harder. So, our overall game, yes, is going to have to be better from start to finish."