MIAMI — As the Game 2 score mounted — 5-0, 18-2, 25-8 — and LeBron kept scoring on muscle drives, and Dwyane Wade kept hitting impossible fallaways, and Chris Bosh kept cleaning up the boards, you realized what you were seeing.
Fear and dread come to life. This is what fostered all the angst. This was what wrought all the hand-wringing.
This is why basketball purists and most NBA executives and maybe more players than will admit foresaw horror to come. Three players this good would not just tip, but tip over, what little competitive balance existed in pro basketball.
The Heatles? The Unbeatables is more like it.
That's what Miami seemed to be for most of Game 2, though a vaunted Thunder rally made it close at the end, 100-96.
But now the Thunder's chase for an ahead-of-schedule NBA title has gotten much more difficult. If the Heat's Big Three play like this, then the Heat is who we thought it was when LeBron jumped on board and announced his goal of at least seven championships.
LeBron always has been great. He's criticized more than Congress, though he outperforms the politicos by a mile. He's always a difference-maker of the highest order.
But the greatness of Wade and Bosh has been come-and-go. Wade appears beat-up; appears to have begun the slow slide to mortality. Like Charles Barkley says, Father Time is unbeaten. Bosh has been injured; he missed big chunks of the Indiana and Boston series with an abdominal injury.
There was no sign of physical limitation in Game 2. Wade turned back the clock; it was 2006 all over again. He scored 24 points on 10-of-20 shooting, with six rebounds and five assists. Bosh had 16 points and 15 rebounds.
Both Wade and Bosh appeared drab in Game 1. They were vibrant in Game 2.
“We're glad he's back playing his regular minutes, and that's going to be key for us the rest of the way,” Wade said of Bosh.
“I know my abilities, I know what I'm capable of, and it was good. It gave me an opportunity to go back and look and see what I can get better at and pick my spots more.”
When Wade attacks like LeBron, and is successful, defenses bunker down. Know why Shane Battier has 17 points in each of the first two games? Because the Thunder will let Battier shoot all series long. They are not going to tighten down on Battier when the paint must be fortified to protect against a LeBron or Wade assault.
Can the Heat keep it up? Well, health is a good sign. But Miami for two straight seasons has been inconsistent. LeBron and Wade haven't always mixed, Bosh hasn't always shown up, the sidekicks have been mostly blah.
Was Game 2 an aberration, or has the Heat finally caught its wave?
Again, Wade and Bosh are the key. LeBron is going to play in a dominant way. But Wade and Bosh?
“We knew that he had to be aggressive, and he's one of our attackers,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Wade. “So we were trying to play to our identity. He set the tone at the beginning. You could see with his aggressiveness off the bounce.”
But why is that ever not the case? Contrast that with Russell Westbrook, who doesn't always play well but always comes to play. Aggression is never an issue with Russ.
So why is it with Wade?
Some say he's got to be hurt, that his chronic knee problems will never fully go away. But if so, then every Heat game is a crapshoot, and LeBron's got an even bigger load to bear.
This much we know. If Bosh and Wade together can duplicate Game 2 three more times, the 2012 NBA championship parade won't be on the Bricktown Canal, it will be down Biscayne Boulevard.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.