After Game 5 and Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Miami Heat are on the verge of either reaching their third straight NBA Finals and a chance at back-to-back titles, or having to answer some major questions this offseason.
While it says something that the Heat have made it to two straight NBA Finals, let alone being on the verge of a third, the title window and the Big Three era seems to be on the verge of ending.
When the Heat had their introductory ceremony, LeBron James proclaimed that the Heat would win, "not one, not two, not three," and well, you know the rest of the speech. However, just three years after combining to become the Big Three, the Miami Heat look more like the South Beach version of LeBron's Cleveland Cavaliers.
First, let's compare all three players in the last two games, when the notion of a Big One really started to gain some steam.
|Jun 01||@ IND3||L 77-91||42||10-21||2-4||7-8||0||7||7||6||2||1||4||2||29|
|May 30||vs. IND3||W 90-79||44||13-26||3-7||1-4||0||8||8||6||2||1||3||1||30|
|Jun 01||@ IND3||L 77-91||34||3-11||1-2||3-5||0||2||2||1||2||1||2||1||10|
|May 30||vs. IND3||W 90-79||41||3-8||0-1||4-6||2||4||6||4||1||1||3||0||10|
|Jun 01||@ IND3||L 77-91||31||1-8||1-1||2-2||1||3||4||0||0||1||3||2||5|
|May 30||vs. IND3||W 90-79||33||3-7||1-1||0-0||0||5||5||1||1||0||0||2||7|
James more than doubled his two teammates combined in both games. Not to mention that he has also had as many rebounds and more assists as both combined in those games.
Those statistics alone show that James has had to carry the load.
However, just in case you say that two games aren't enough, I dare you to look at the difference between this year's and last year's playoff numbers from all three players.
The Heat were at their best when James and Wade were both scoring 25-30 points, while Bosh continued to be a consistent third scorer averaging double digits.
James has kept up his end of the bargain. On the other hand, Wade's points-per-game average is nearly half what it was before. Although Bosh is averaging similar numbers, he has failed to step up and become the second-best player on the team. He also has failed to do anything on the inside as noted by the amount of perimeter shots he has been taking.
With Wade and Bosh averaging about 26 points combined, you can see how James has become frustrated and has had to just about everything for the team. It also says something when Udonis Haslem was your second-leading scorer in Game 5 with 16 points.
Without Paul George's defensive mistake in Game 1 and James' big third quarter in Game 5, the Heat may well have been eliminated by now.
So while the present status of the Big Three is declining, the future looks even more up in the air.
While all three have played 10 seasons in the NBA, Wade is 31 years old, Bosh is 29 and James is 28. Out of a possible 804 regular-season games played, Bosh has played 717 games, Wade has played 665 and James has played 765.
Let's not forget how many games each player has accrued in the playoffs, Olympics and for Bosh and Wade, college.
James played 130 playoff games and 24 Olympic games. Meanwhile, Bosh has played in 61 playoff games, eight Olympic contests and 31 games during his freshman year at Georgia Tech. Finally, Wade has played in 124 playoff games, 16 Olympic contests, and two full seasons at Marquette where he played an average of 30.7 minutes a game in 65 additional games.
In grand total that is 919 games for LeBron, 870 for Wade and 817 for Bosh.
All three players will be hitting the later years of their prime and eventually start to decline, especially Wade, who has already showed such signals. At the "older" age of 31 and a career average of 36.9 minutes played, the future looks grim. Unless Wade changes his punishing style of play, he will continue to miss games and become a shell of himself.
Bosh did deal with both an abdominal strain in the playoffs last year and a rolled ankle this year. However, he has struggled being the inside presence that the Heat desperately need. In this year's playoffs, Bosh has taken 29 threes this postseason, which matches the 29 he has taken, combined, in his previous four playoff appearances.
That means he is settling for being a jump shooter, something of which Miami has plenty. Not to mention he has struggled with being the third wheel in the Big Three. While he has shown flashes of stepping up when needed to, he doesn't consistently do it as one would expect. Take this year's playoffs as an example.
James, meanwhile, has done everything short of walking on water for the Heat. At the same time though, with Bosh and Wade not living up to their reputations, James has had to play more minutes and looks to be getting both physically and emotionally tired at the end of games.
After all, he has scored 25-plus points four times in this series and flirts with a triple double every night. But the Heat are still facing a Game 7.
This is the same style of play that he was engaged in towards the end of his career in Cleveland. While we think he can do it himself, even the greatest of players needed a Robin to their proverbial Batman.
The results of both Game 5 and Game 6 have truly demonstrated how the Big Three have become the Big One. With Bosh and Wade flopping, James has had to take control. It will be interesting to see the result of Monday night's matchup. A loss will lead to a plethora of offseason questions, while a win allows the Heat to guard their Big Three image for at least four more games.
Follow Andrew Goldberg on Twitter @gbthegoalie12