If clutch, for you, is shooting at the last second with five players on you while making the shot, then LeBron James isn’t the player for you. If showing up for an potential elimination game, with the back to the wall, on the road, and scoring 45 points while taking over from the first second is your cup of tea, then you were pleased with what you saw.
Exceptional. Mesmerizing. The thesaurus is filled with words that can help describe LeBron James’ Game 6 against the Boston Celtics, reminding everyone just how good of a player he can be. It wasn’t that the Heat suddenly played beautiful, flowing basketball, with screens and quick spreading of the floor.
James just took over the game from the first second he stepped on the floor, destroying anyone who stood in his way. He got the ball in places he likes. Not too far away from the basket. Paul Pierce had his chances against James, but just couldn’t contain him. Rajon Rondo was just as ineffective. Even Kevin Garnett, looking slow and tired when suddenly facing two big men (Chris Bosh added into the mix), couldn’t change anything James did.
There were some shots that Boston were happy to give James. Like his one legged hop with two players on him, or a few turn around jumpers in tough positions. But sometimes, having the skill players works in your favor. Just as the Thunder, who base their entire philosophy and the shooting ability of their top 3 guys. LeBron James took the game to the Celtics, who didn’t respond. When they did pose somewhat of a defensive challenge, he simply shot over them.
The Miami Heat played as a team, on defense. On offense there was some nice penetration and passing to the outside, finishing with 7-16 from beyond the arc, compared with the Celtics’ pathetic 1-14. But James was accounted for two of those three pointers. Mario Chalmers hit three of them, including one from that famous spot he remembers so well from the Kansas – Memphis game. Shane Battier added two more tre’s. Dwyane Wade was the only other player in double figures, scoring 17 points.
This was about James making a statement. He scored 15 unassisted field goals. He scored 20 points on isolation plays, after totaling for 24 in the previous 5 games. He was unstoppable in the post, going 7-7 and adding a point from the line. In the first five games, he was 6-16. He didn’t even look to be exploding of energy. Just stone faced, focused, and committed to showing that the Miami Heat are a better team than the Celtics, mostly because of how great he is.
Doc Rivers, who usually talks more about how his team didn’t play well than congratulating and praising opposition (arrogant teams are like that sometimes) had to admit this was a special performance. He did say he thought his players didn’t get physical enough with James early on, but sometimes, a player is actually too good, too hot to do anything against.
What does this mean for Game 7? Miami Heat favorites again? If James comes out like this one more time, scoring 30 points in the first half while being all menacing and nasty on defense, while the Celtics play bad basketball, taking shots they don’t like while Rajon Rondo turns the ball over 7 times and Kevin Garnett looks lost in the paint, they don’t stand a chance.
But these are the Boston Celtics, who have shown over the last four years just how resilient they are, and how you can never count them out. Despite what the last game told us. Despite the age. Despite LeBron James. Amazing as he is, even a performance like this one might not be enough if the Celtics bring their best to Miami on Saturday Night.