When watching a performance like LeBron James’s superlative inducing one in game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, you cannot help but to contemplate the historical context.
He led the Miami Heat in every perceivable way by strapping the team on his back and carrying them to a 98-79 victory. The final result was never really in doubt from the opening tip.
Michael Jordan’s 63 point performance in the Boston Garden against the same Celtics immediately comes to mind. Though dominance James came in a win. One that his team desperately needed.
30 points in the first half cures a lot of ills.
I just tried to make plays for our team throughout the whole game, as long as I was on the court I wanted to make plays, both offensively and defensively, to give ourselves a chance to win. I think I did that tonight.
Game 6 was potentially career framing. Many in the media, even some on this website, were suggesting that the Heat break apart their team as currently constructed.
ESPN’s Rick Bucher suggested that either Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade would be shopped and shipped if Miami didn’t extend the series to a Game 7 tomorrow.
There was no Larry Bird to affix “The Chosen One” with divine powers but Doc Rivers suggested that we stop criticizing James so voraciously.
“I hope now you guys can stop talking about LeBron and he doesn’t play in big games,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said afterward. “He was pretty good tonight. So we can put that to bed and go play Game 7.”
He silenced the critics in dramatic fashion. At least for one night we all knew who was the best basketball player on the planet. Sorry Kevin Durant but James just does things that you cannot. He scored 45 points and grabbed 15 boards on 73% shooting.
With Wade struggling and Bosh not ready to contribute at the level normally expected of him, James was not the best teammate. But that is what the Miami Heat needed. He didn’t get Mario Chalmers involved. He didn’t kick the rock to Shane Battier or Mike Miller in the corner when they were open.
He tapped into his inner Kobe Bryant. A level of his subconscious that many questioned. Some believed that it did not exist.
That strategy has yielded a mixed bag of results for Bryant. Many call him a ball hog. Some say he is a selfish player. But Bryant will gladly carry that mantle as long as you respect his five championship rings.
James had the mean mug. The expression on his face was pure focus. Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass; any Celtic defender who dared try to slow him down, even the role players around him and their eventual point total were his sacrificial lambs.
It was a winning strategy.
Honestly though, that will have nothing to do with today’s outcome.
Even James knows that a repeat performance is unlikely.
I don’t know. I take every game as its own. I will continue to be aggressive. I will try to continue to play at a high level like I done the whole postseason. If it results in these numbers or whatever the case may be, I’m going to go out there and play my game and play as hard as I can. I don’t really care what the stats say. I won’t regret Game 7. Win, lose or draw, I’m going to go in with the mindset like I’ve had this whole season. And we’ll see what happens.
The Celtics are a resilient bunch. They are former champions, albeit old and slow at this point in their career. They have shown that they can compete in this series.
Every time Doc Rivers’s well prepared team is counted out, a response follows. The C’s played the worst game possible given the circumstances. The entire Big 4 struggled.
Miami cannot expect that to become a trend.
I can’t fathom a situation in my brain where Paul Pierce does not rebound and do better than 0-6 from the three point line. Rajon Rondo will not have seven turnovers.
Boston will swing for the fences. Anyone expecting them to wilt must be smoking. Boston and Miami both know that James can’t have a performance for the ages again.
So can the ancillary players step up for Miami? That will be the difference.
Can Bosh put up 20 points? Will Wade play like D. Wade or Dwyane? Will a collection of Chalmers, Battier, Haslem and Miller be able to chip in with the requisite points?
That is an awful lot of ifs. Though at their peak, the Heat are a better team.
The past two sentences sound like an oxymoron but I believe you understand exactly what I mean.