LeBron James and a Different Kind of Clutch

LeBron James gets a lot of criticism for his performance on fourth quarters and especially last shot scenarios and situations. One bad playoff series, the finals against the Mavs, made people forget the James is capable of carrying a team, alone, for a full 12 minutes of crunch time basketball, and prevail as the winner. Without a game winning shot. There’s no need.

LeBron James didn’t have Dwyane beside him, but the Miami Heat pulled through against the New Jersey who were playing without Deron Williams and Gerald Wallace. Spoelstra went with the faster, more offensive oriented lineup once again, starting Chris Bosh at Center with Haslem and James completing the front court picture. Defensively, the Heat did struggle, but luckily, James played at his best during the closing minutes, finishing with 37 points en route to a 101-98 win.

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The Miami Heat were down by two points when James checked in back into the game, 5:35 left on the clock. He went on to score 17 points by being aggressive. Not looking for fadeaways and three pointers. He simply drove to the basket. It’s nearly impossible to stop him when he’s determined to push inside and score. He sometime makes it look so easy you wonder why he doesn’t do it on every single play. But I guess everyone has their limits.

LeBron made four layups and was a perfect 7-7 from the line, giving the Heat their first lead of the game with 51 seconds left. The New Jersey crowd had his back by then, chanting MVP in what was a surreal night at the Prudential Center. The Nets actually looked pretty good without their best player, while their fans weren’t decisive on who to root for – The home team or the incredible LeBron James.

James finished with 37 points, 6 boards and 7 assists, while Chris Bosh had an impressive 22 points and 15 rebounds. LeBron has been fantastic for the last two weeks, averaging 30.3 points over the last nine games, as if to show that all the talk about Kevin Durant deserving the MVP this year are rubbish. James is just a better player, in terms of what he can do on both sides of the court, and what he can create for others without scoring.

The overall feeling towards LeBron have drastically changed during the last couple of seasons. The villain, turning into this Loser after a wonderful postseason because of the Finals series against the Mavs, softening up to him but putting too much emphasis on the All-Star game, forgetting everything he did up to the last play. Like he did against the Knicks, and like he’s done numerous times during his career – There’s no one better in taking a team on his back in the fourth and leading them to victory, or somewhere close to that.

If Dwyane Wade would’ve played, things might have been easier for Miami on a night in which Kris Humphries finished with 29 points and MarShon Brooks added 24, surprising more than just the Heat. Miami got just enough from their bench (28 points) to provide a comfortable cushion for LeBron’s fourth quarter heroics. Clutch isn’t all about taking the last shot. It’s about making sure you don’t need to take it.