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The Sixth Man: Athleticism is the only thing haunting Wade, Heat

During the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat are staying at the historic Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City, a place that is supposedly haunted by a ghost named Effie.

The legend of the hotel starts with W.B. Skirvin, an oil tycoon, who built the property in 1910 as a place for locals and travelers to visit on a daily basis.

During the prohibition years, high class "social escorts" became part of the scene at the hotel, but Skirvin himself developed a peccadillo for a young employee, Effie.

Effie became Skirvin's mistress and was eventually impregnated by the developer. Back then a man of Skirvin's reputation had to keep things quiet at all costs and he ordered his lover holed up in one of the hotel rooms. It is said that Effie became so depressed and angry from her treatment, she took her baby and jumped from the window of the hotel.

Although both died from the fall, locals says the Skirvin crying baby and Effie continue to haunt the hotel to this day.

Over the years, visitors have reported that they could hear the voice of a woman and see a naked ghostly figure of a woman walking around. At night, the sounds of a baby crying can be heard throughout the hotel.

Back in January 2010, the New York Knicks stayed at the Skirvin and several members of the team were convinced it is indeed haunted.

"I definitely believe it," Jared Jeffries told the New York Daily News at the time. "The place is haunted. It's scary."

Eddy Curry, the little used center on the Heat who was a member of the Knicks at the time, claims he slept for only two hours because he couldn't stop thinking about ghosts roaming the hotel.

As for the Heat, they haven't used Effie as an excuse just yet, probably since they are dealing with something far scarier, the Thunder's athleticism.

Miami was counting on at least some "NBA Finals jitters" in Game 1 when it came to OKC's twin 23-year-old superstars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but the moment affected neither and the Heat's dynamic duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade finally felt what it's like to be outgunned.

Wade in particular looked stunned while trying to deal with the pure athleticism of Westbrook, who took over the contest in the third quarter by spearheading some lively defense and ball movement which forced the kind of up-and-down tempo Miami is trying to avoid at all costs.

Wade even deferred to Westbrook's amazing skills after by calling him the most athletic player in the NBA.

"I appreciate him for saying that, but I don't know if I am the most athletic guy in the league," the Thunder point guard said. "But I try to put myself in position to where I look a little bit athletic."

On the off day before Game 2, Wade was asked if his own vaunted athleticism, which once took over the NBA Finals in 2006 when the Heat got the best of the Dallas Mavericks, was waning.

"I was 24. Totally different," the All-Star said. "Six years ago, man. I'm not that athletic, I'll tell you that, as I was in '06, but I still have something in me, I still have some left in me. I wish it was possible to stay at that same athleticism as I was at 24, but that's not possible."

To casual observers, the main storyline of this series is the matchup between James, the three-time NBA MVP, and Durant, the reigning three-time scoring champion. Last season, Miami's failure in the Finals was put on the broad shoulders of James, particularly after his repeated fourth-quarter failings in the Heat's eventual loss to the Mavericks.

James was outplayed in the final quarter by Durant on Wednesday but performed admirably and had a strong game throughout. This time, the blame has shifted toward Wade, who has had an up-and-down postseason while dealing with a balky left knee.

"A lot of times I try to let him figure it out on his own, but sometimes I go to him and tell him I need one of those games from him," James said when taking about his co-star on Wednesday. "He still has it. He knows he still has it, too, but every player needs a little kick every now and then, no matter how time tested they are."

Wade also understands his team needs more from him.

"I want to score more points," the 2006 NBA Finals MVP said. "I don't deal with the pressure of that. That's when you start thinking too much, you start overanalyzing things. I want to score more points, I want to get my team more to give us an opportunity to win the series. I'll be more aggressive. looking for my opportunities a lot more, probably than I have of late."

The numbers, 22.7 points on 47 percent shooting, have been solid this postseason for Wade but he has clearly taken a step back as a player, likely due to the nagging knee injury.

A healthy Wade remains an athletic marvel and one of the league's best finishers at the rim. He's at his best when he plays recklessly, but the normal lift and explosion just isn't there and more often than not the jump shot is finding the front of the rim.

A proud player Wade still plans on turning things around.

"One day it'll happen. Father Time will knock on the door and tap me on the shoulder, but not right now," he said.

Even at 100 percent, however, Wade isn't going to be as athletic as Westbrook and that's something that figures to haunt the Marquette product throughout this series.

"I only know one way, stay in attack mode, and that's kind of how I've been playing since I've been playing the game of basketball," Westbrook said. "I can't change now. It's got me to this point, and it's good for our team. My coaching staff and my teammates want me to stay in attack mode, and that's all that matters."