During one of approximately 101 non-pivotal Heat possessions last night, Dwyane Wade found himself with the ball at the top of the key. Per always against Indiana, the only thing preventing him from scoring was a slower, less athletic, less skilled Pacer. So Flash just sized up the man in front of him, took a few hard dribbles to the right and rose up for the 17-foot jumper.
It’s a pull-up move he has made hundreds — perhaps thousands — of times in his career. And one of the main things that makes Dwyane’s mid-range game so lethal is his focus. He has an uncanny ability to immediately stop advancing with incredible precision while the defender keeps retreating. Then he lifts off the floor, usually with a slight fade back or to the side, intently staring at the rim throughout his jumper, accentuating his follow through on the release and, finally, taking an excited little half-hop as he admires his work after landing back on the ground. Throughout the entire process he never breaks his concentration until the ball drops safely through the rim.
That didn’t happen on this possession.
Instead, he just released the jumper, turned and walked back down the court, assuming the ball would swish through the net. But the ball hit iron and bounced around the cylinder, making it seem as though Wade had been overly nonchalant in his assumption that the shot would go done. By the time Flash finally turned to look back, he was near half-court and well out of position to be a factor in any offensive rebound action if the ball bounced out. It looked as if his over-confidence was about to prove as silly as mine often is when I’m bowling and turn around to pose for my lane mates while expecting an impending strike — only to later turn and see three pins still standing.
But it didn’t matter. Just as presumed, the ball eventually dropped through after a few fortuitous bounces around the rim.
That whole sequence was a microcosm for this game — and, really, the whole Pacers season at this point.
The Heat — like any other .500-caliber team — did not need to do much but show up, go through the motions and win despite a half-interested, nonchalant approach. Playing the Pacers right now is not quite as comforting as having a night off, but the Heat certainly looked about as uncomfortable dunking their way to a blowout during this one as I assume they do during their pre-game shootarounds.
And increasingly, the look I see on the faces of opposing players makes me think that their pregame meeting consisted of only the team captain saying: “C’mon, coach. Let’s just go shoot around already. We got this. It’s the Pacers.”
This loss marks the lowest point in a season full of nearly nothing but.