LeBron James has always gotten a fair, even-handed shake here. If you scroll through the archives of my prior Miami Heat posts, you’ll find:
1. I think “The Decision” was handled in the worst possible way he could have handled it.
2. I think “The Disco Party” celebrating “The Decision” was the worst possible thing he could have done immediately after making “The Decision.”
3. I think he can be one of the all-time greatest basketball players ever but he simply hasn’t brought his “A” game when it has been most needed, frustrating me further by the way he has recently gone about his business when those times have been upon him.
Yesterday in Indianapolis…with Chris Bosh out and Dwyane Wade looking as drained as the knee he apparently had drained earlier in the week…LeBron James put the Miami Heat franchise on his very broad shoulders and willed Game 4 from the Indiana Pacers, 101-93.
Of course the Heat would not have won if not for the timely re-awakening of Wade…as well as a resurgence from a previously, equally quiet Udonis Haslem. Yet, I choose to believe James’ super-human effort helped rev up both of these guys. LeBron was finding every way possible to get Dwyane jump-started…and Udonis became desperate to find his game once his teammate of nine years found his.
And desperate it was, for if the Heat had failed to win Sunday after Thursday’s pitiful exhibition in Indy who knows if Miami puts together three straight wins against this Pacers club, a gritty team that scratches and claws from the opening tip to the final buzzer.
James’ court carnage calculated out to 40 points, 18 rebounds and 9 assists…Wade’s 30 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists. At one point, between them they scored 38 consecutive points. Yet it was Haslem’s trio of mid-range jumpers in crunch time that finally punched out Indiana’s opportunity to take a 3-1 series lead. Ironic in that Udonis was punched out earlier in the game and required nine stitches over his eye. That probably didn’t hurt his motivation level either.
LeBron haters will dine on the fact the game was just an appetizer and not the NBA Finals…their entree will be he had another superstar play one of his greatest games to assist…the dessert is the opponent was “just” the up-and-coming Indiana Pacers and not a “real” challenge.
Whatever. Chew on all that if you like.
Those who haven’t made LeBron James “personal” will tell you he played one of the greatest NBA Playoff games ever. If you saw it, you didn’t need either his final stats or the historical research after the fact to know this. All you had to do was watch. The man would not be denied…and he clearly wasn’t going to let Wade be denied either, looking to create multiple chances to feed him the ball until he got his confidence and rhythm back. James’ eyes were laser-like; his steely focus etched on his face each trip up and down the court.
Speaking towards Wade’s motivation outside of the way James went off…he was fouled awkwardly by Indiana’s Roy Hibbert and when he challenged that fact in galloped the Pacers’ Danny Granger to get in Dwyane’s grill.
This wasn’t the first time Granger tried to goad Miami into a macho showdown in this series.
He might want to make that his last. The timing of that event and Dwyane’s resurgence seemed to also be relevant.
When Chris Bosh was injured, many folks thought James would then have to spend most of his time down low battling the Pacers’ bigs. Well, whether or not it was Wade’s time with his old college coach Tom Crean on Friday…or his time with his current pro coach Eric Spoelstra on Saturday and Sunday…or James himself…maybe front-office guru Pat Riley even…SOMEONE figured out both LeBron and Dwyane needed to start moving and weaving in and around those bigs. They needed to move, move and move some more…getting Indiana’s post players outside their comfort zone, screened away from the basket…and losing all contact with James and Wade in the process.
James’ detractors will also be quick to tell you it’s just one win…and the Pacers were in the game to the very end. Both are true.
Hey, no one knows how this series will play out. But one thing all reasonable, clear minds should be able to agree on is…yesterday we got the LeBron James we assume we’ll see most days once the NBA post-season begins. The same LeBron James we saw in certain Playoff games back when he was wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers uni.
Yesterday he had a game for the record books. But you didn’t need to see any records from it.
You just had to see him perform.
With an open mind of course…