There’s something misleading about triple doubles, but LeBron James is more than numbers. The final plays for the Miami Heat as they evened the NBA finals for a third time came from Ray Allen and Chris Bosh, but it was James in his fourth quarter revival that made it all possible, once again bringing a different definition to clutch as he managed to almost ruin it all before the happy ending.
Entering the third quarter, the Miami Heat were down by 10 points (75-65), and LeBron James was only 3-of-12 from the field, as Mario Chalmers’ hot hand (finished with 20 points on 4-of-5 from beyond the arc on another big Finals game from him) was what kept the Heat within touching distance. And then everything changed, especially when Dwyane Wade came off to give his aching knees (suffering an early game collision with Ginobili) more rest.
James, along with Chalmers, Mike Miller (8 points and 7 rebounds) brought the Heat back from nowhere, giving them a three point lead with four minutes to go, by simply forgetting about jump shots, and making the most of his unstoppable ability to drive to the basket. It didn’t matter if it was Boris Diaw, Danny Green or Kawhi Leonard. Tim Duncan was exhausted from his huge first half (25 points, finished the game with 30), and there was no one to stop James from scoring 11 points up to that point.
Then came the twist ending. The Heat’s offense, with Wade, completely stalled, and scored only two points in over four minutes. James turned the ball over twice in the final minute, trying to do too much on his own, and putting his team in a lot of trouble, trailing by five with 28 seconds left. He shot a terrible three pointer six seconds later, but a huge offensive rebound from Mike Miller (Duncan wasn’t on the court), gave him a second chance and a three pointer.
The Spurs made only 1-of-2 from the line, and James took a jab a tying the game. He missed, but Chris Bosh came up with the offensive rebound, and Ray Allen hit what might become a legendary corner three to send the game into overtime.
The Spurs found themselves in control once again in overtime, as James scored two points but turned the ball over two more times. But the Heat’s defense was too much. Manu Ginobili was in game 4 mode, while Tony Parker missed, missed, and missed some more, and it was once again Ray Allen with the clutch free throws shots (finished with 9 points) to seal the deal at 103-100, before one final block from Chris Bosh sent Danny Green to the floor.
Bosh promised Green wouldn’t get too many open looks in the game, which cost the Heat in the first half because Tim Duncan had no problem in the one on one with Bosh. Green can’t hit when he’s not open, finishing with 1-of-7 from the field and only 3 points. LeBron James had his highs & lows, but his defense on Tony Parker and for most of the game was outstanding, as the Spurs, when excluding Leonard and Duncan, shot only 30% from the field.
The NBA championship isn’t in the bag yet, not even close. This series has been about isolated games, with momentum never carrying over. No consecutive wins, not up until now. For the second time in a week, it feels like the Spurs are broken, maybe because they had so many chances to finish game 6. The Heat, however, have their own set of problems, that won’t go away just because everything went their way (sort of) in the fourth quarter and overtime.
LeBron James is a different kind of clutch – he takes his team all the way, and lets someone else pick up the slack. He tried to do it all by himself in this one, and it almost blew up in his face. The Heat’s greatest strength is when he’s unpredictable, and the fact that there are quite a few players capable of taking the final shot, none more suitable than Ray Allen.
It was a game that reminded the Heat of what it takes to become champions, but also teaching the Spurs and those who counted them out at a certain point that you never underestimate the heart of a champion. The Miami Heat are still the NBA champions, and maybe, if they bring the same kind of fourth quarter mentality to game 7, will remain that way when this fantastic NBA Finals series is wrapped up.