Call it a disappearing act, call it choking. LeBron James’ Game 4 won’t be remembered too long if the Heat manage to win the title. If he wakes up in the next few games and shakes off whatever it is that’s grabbed a hold of him from the inside and paralyzing him, the Heat will win it. People have short memories. They prefer to remember the good over the bad, at least that’s what I think they do, deep inside.
I don’t want to put any more pressure on LeBron, but when a finals series is tied at 2-2, the team that wins Game 5 goes on to win the title 19 times out 26. Must Win? Pretty damn close to it. Next time, when LeBron talks to his guys before the game about being with their back against the wall – I think that he’ll need to mean it more than usual. They still have two home games after Game 5, but you get the picture.
Stats always help telling a story – LeBron James is averaging 17.3 points per in the Finals. He scored only 8 points, shooting 3-11 from the field, missing two key free throws in the fourth quarter. Against the Bulls he averaged nealry 26 points per game and was money in each fourth quarter from Game 2 onwards. Dwyane Wade? Reverse. Had a rough series against the Bulls, averaging 18.8 points shooting just over 40%. The NBA Finals? Like in 2006, Wade loves ’em – 29.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, carrying the Heat on his back.
LeBron James spoke about two teams trying to find ways to win games down the stretch. Kind of like the early stages of a boxing match. Whatever he’s talking about, he needs to search deep down inside and get rid of whatever’s holding him back. I don’t remember such a hesitant and lack of aggression from an MVP Caliber player in the Finals. Just last week James said there’s no one who can guard him one on one. He had Jason Kidd on him for long stretches. He was the actual point guard for the Heat most of the night. How does he not take matters into his own hands?
Even Dirk Nowitzki, burning up with 101 degree fever, realized (kind of late, but still with enough time to win) that he’s not going to win this one from the outside. It’s not that kind of series. He put his head down and drove inside. He nailed the biggest shot of the game that way, and got to the line that way, where he’s pretty much perfect from this post season. James? The most talented player in the league just spread the ball around. Yeah, he got 7 assists. Yeah, he made that huge QB pass to Wade. Miami would have survived without that. They need him to create shots for himself and others. Chris Bosh can score and do a lot more damage if James draws defenders in the middle. He didn’t, and Bosh went cold in the fourth quarter.
Even when LeBron James did find himself in the paint, almost by mistake it seemed, he gave on the ball. There’s not a basketball player alive who can compete with James in the air, in upper body strength. James just gave up on shots, on a couple of occasions surprising his teammates with his reluctance to shoot, causing turnovers. Dallas clamped down on Wade and LeBron just hid in the corner. The big three combined for nine points and five turnovers in the fourth quarter.
I get it, LeBron James isn’t a selfish player. We all know that. He was criticized for it from the first time he entered a playoff series, back in ’06, giving up clutch shots for Damon Jones and such. He likes to pass, and he has Dwyane Wade with him, he can take a load off. But not take the night off. He didn’t try and post up or drive with Jason Kidd on him. Hey, Kidd is a great defender, but there’s only so much he can do if James decided to take him to the hole. LeBron didn’t.
He won’t be this bad on Thursday. He can’t, there’s no way possible. Right? LeBron James is a fan of the games’s history, of the mythos and legends of the NBA. He likes to talk about it. He needs to prove he belongs with those guys. Even Dwyane Wade seemed sick of doing it all on his own in the final moments. He needs the man brought to Miami with trumpets and bells to step up and grab hold of the reigns so they can win that title.