NBA moments don’t get bigger than a game 7 in the finals, and for LeBron James, in touching distance of his second NBA title ring, it’s about championships, greatness and legacy, needing the right kind of night from Ray Allen, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller and everyone who is going to be involved in order to come out of this one looking like a winner.
Because no matte what happens during the game, if the team James is one doesn’t end up winning the NBA title, regardless of how he performed in it, the poison arrows from all around will start flying. James usually puts on a show in a game 7 scenario, and has never lost one with the Miami Heat, scoring 31 points last year against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, and 32 in this year’s ECF vs the Pacers.
In both cases, after such a long and grueling series, the ending was a slight ant-climatic moment. The Heat had no problem getting rid of the Pacers a couple of weeks ago after a physical, aggressive and rough series that was a lot closer than some of the double digit wins suggested.
Against the Spurs, it seems to be a very similar stories. In games 2-5, both teams won in wide margins, but there was no doubt there wasn’t a clear favorite. Game 6 finally pitted the two teams in game with no garbage time, and a fourth quarter and overtime with every shot counting.
A lot of difference is going to come from what kind of 30-point night (or better) James has in game 7. Will it be a one in which he preforms like the MVP from the first moment, but finds it hard to make the right decision if the game is on the line? Or will he be guarded well by Boris Diaw and Danny Green for most of the game, only to watch him explode in the fourth quarter, and still almost let the game he brought back to life slip away with careless shots and possessions?
The answer probably resides within the collective playing next to him. Dwyane Wade seems to be back to banged up mode, making Erik Spoelstra seriously consider playing long minutes without him on the court. Wade was a -15 during his time on the floor, struggling to keep up both defensively or make a difference for most of the game on offense, once again finding it very hard to get by players or be his usual open-court self.
Chris Bosh scored only 10 points, but what really mattered were his offensive rebounds and blocks, including two in overtime – one on Tony Parker, and another one, right in the finale, on Danny Green, before the final buzzer went off. He might not be able to take care of Tim Duncan on his own, but Duncan doesn’t have it in him to play 40 minutes of superstar like basketball. At some point, he’s going to be able to be free and help others, making the Heat’s defense a lot better.
It’ll be up to Mario Chalmers to stick to his strengths, and not try to become the point guard he’s never going to be. Hitting open threes, defense (which hasn’t been at its best in this series) and making the most of the openings created when the Spurs aren’t paying attention to him. Chalmers has big games in big occasions within him, as long as he doesn’t let it go to his head.
Ray Allen? These last two games, even the loss in game 5, showed why the Miami Heat made the move for him last offseason. Allen might be shooting terribly for months, but there’s no other player you want taking a corner three, or shooting free throws, when the game is on the line. He can’t score off the dribble anymore and he’s a defensive liability, but Allen was brought over to win NBA titles, by doing what he does best.
There’s more to the Heat that matters. Mike Miller, just by being on the floor (although he does need to get more touches) forces the Spurs to guard differently, not to mention hitting shots without his shoes. Chris Andersen isn’t a guy who spreads the floor like Spoelstra wants, but he’s good enough defensively and on the boards to warrant some playing time. Norris Cole might still have a part to play in this NBA title.
The Miami Heat need all of this to come together in order to win the NBA title, but LeBron James, on a side story-line is just as dependent on these pieces meshing and sticking for one more night, with his legacy and plays in NBA’s history depending on it.