The two most critical pieces to the Miami Heat’s success is its bench play and Dwyane Wade’s play. Miami’s bench has been solid, though not spectacular, of late scoring 35 of Miami’s 86 points in Game 1 of the Heat-Bulls series. By comparison, the Bulls’ bench scored a paltry 16 of Chicago’s 93 points in Game 1 (that being said, the Bulls were missing Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich).
Dwyane Wade, on the other hand, has been less than solid. In fact, he’s been downright terrible recently — at least, relative to the level of play that one would expect from a superstar and perennial All-Star shooting guard.
He scored 14 points against the Bulls yesterday, went 7-for-16 from the field, and did not attempt a single free throw. Oh, and he had three turnovers and five fouls.
The game before that, in Game 3 of the Heat-Bucks series (he missed Game 4) he went 1-for-12 from the field, and was 2-for-4 from the free throw stripe to finish with all of four points. He also had six turnovers.
You have to look back all the way to April 23rd, Game 2 of the Heat-Bucks series, for the last game that Wade shot better than 50% from the field (he was 8-for-14); this was also the last game that he scored at least 20 points.
In fact, in the past ten games he’s played, D-Wade has scored 20+ points only three times and shot 50%+ only five times. These are numbers one might expect from the likes of Raymond Felton or Jeremy Lin — not a superstar like Dwyane Wade.
For a more visual understanding of Dwyane Wade’s has recent offensive struggles, here is his shot chart from the past month (data from here). Note that in the past month, Wade has made all of seven (seven!!!) shots outside the paint (and no threes) — by comparison, Steph Curry made about seven million mid-to-long-range jumpers in the third quarter of last night’s game against the Spurs (not really, but you get what I’m saying here?).
Dwyane Wade’s Shot Chart — Past Month
Compare his shot chart from the past month to his shot chart from the regular season, and you can see how much Wade relies on his mid-range jumper to score (he shot about half as many jumpers as inside-the-paint shots this season) .
Dwyane Wade Shot Chart From 2012-2013 Regular Season
Dwyane Wade’s recent shooting slump has led to a decrease in production from Miami’s #2 option, putting more pressure on LeBron, Chris Bosh (who scored nine point on 3-for-10 shooting last night), and the Heat bench to pick up the slack. Unfortunately, I don’t think LeBron, Chris Bosh, or the bench can be relied on to pick up the slack. LeBron already does so much (he’s basically an automatic 25 points, 7 assists, 7 rebounds), Chris Bosh can’t seem to play well on a consistent basis when The Big Three play together, and asking for 20+more points from the Heat’s bench is unrealistic.
In addition, Wade’s shooting slump has made it even harder for him to score. Wade has never been an elite shooter — he has gotten most of his points from finishing at the rim. However, Wade was a good enough jump shooter (around 40% from mid-range this year) that opponents had to respect his mid-range shot. Thus, Wade could use his pump-fake (one of the best in the league) to set up a drive to the rim where he would finish or get fouled (or both). Because he’s been terrible from mid-range recently, opponents have been defending the drive and aren’t respecting the shot as much — which makes it harder for Wade to drive and create.
In order for the Heat to be successful they need Wade to start producing on the levels he is capable of — and soon. Or else, they might not win the Finals — or even this series.