I’m waiting. Waiting for LeBron James to get his revenge. Not because I’m a Heat fan or Celtics hater. Because I want to see the best players do amazing stuff. Derrick Rose will win the MVP this year. That doesn’t mean he’s the best player in the league. LeBron James is. No longer being the only superstar on his team like he was during his Cavs days doesn’t mean he’s any less of a player. James averaged 26.7 points (2nd in the league), 7.5 rebounds and 7 assists per game. Just below Simmons’ 42 rule , but not too shabby. Don’t forget that playing with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have some effect on the stats.
Maybe LeBron James isn’t even THE go-to-guy on this team in clutch moments, or at least he shouldn’t be. I think the Miami Heat are better off as Wade being the premier scoring option and LeBron playing the point-forward role, or something like that. The way the offense worked against the Celtics is pretty much the way it should be. It wasn’t perfect – Bosh didn’t get going, Mike Miller is still not a factor. They got more than enough from James Jones, who finished with 25 points.
It’s personal. It still stings. Last season’s exit more than the one in 2008. It what paved the way for LeBron James to leave Cleveland and become the most hated athlete in America, or at least hyped as such, for a short while. That new status as a ‘villian’ propelled James to some amazing basketball this year. Sure, there were a few low spots, but there always are during an NBA season. Miami entered the playoffs the right way. Boston didn’t, but having the Knicks as first round playoff opponents was pretty helpful. The Knicks can’t be physical as the Celtics for even an entire game. Miami came out hammering in game 1, causing the Celtics to miss 20 of their first 26 field goal attempts and pretty much putting Kevin Garnett out of the game. Boston never caught hold of the running Heat.
The Celtics have pride, maybe a bit of arrogance. Not maybe actually. It’s not that they like losing. It’s that they don’t like looking like the weaker and less-physical side when losing. They did on Sunday. The referees did go with the Heat, but after getting a lot of calls going their way in the close games with the Knicks and other evenings this season, Doc Rivers has nothing to complain about. He did of course, in his own style – Saying the Heat were more ‘chippy’ than ‘physical’. Paul Pierce said he felt like he was fouled excessively on both technicals leading to his ejection. Both agreed that he reacted badly to those calls. Both of them know that Boston need a different, better kind of effort in Game 2 to avoid a 2-0 hole.
LeBron knows not to get over confident – We’re naturally confident,b ut you never get too high or too low in a playoff series. It’s one game. Series is not won in one game. Last season the Cavs had a 1-0 and a 2-1 lead over the Celtics in their Conference Semi Final series. Boston went on to win 4-2. James had an amazing Game 3 in that series, scoring 38 points as the Cavs destroyed the Celtics 124-95. I thought we were seeing the real Cleveland. Turns out Boston just had a breather before their big finish. You can’t count this team out.
There is a difference, well more than one, since last year. The Heat aren’t completely reliant on LeBron’s abilities. Dwyane Wade is there, and Chris Bosh, despite not being at the same level as the other two, can’t be left alone, inside or further away from the basket. Even when Cleveland beat Boston in Game 1, the Celtics dominated that game. They didn’t this time. Shaquille may be returning tonight, as Boston desperately need more physical presence to help their defense. They’ll be much more aggressive and careful with their shot selection in the beginning of this game, I’m sure. How will they handle things down the stretch, that’s another question.
The counter to Boston’s improved effort tonight will be in LeBron’s hands. Not necessarily scoring, but pretty much everything else. His help on the defense – inside and to Bibby when he can’t handle Rondo. Miami did a great job of stopping Boston’s best player in game 1.
Creating turnovers and plenty of open court plays, in which no one in the league can run with the Heat, meaning James and Wade, be it their speed or James’ full court passing. As everything good for Miami or any team usually in the playoffs, they key to success starts with being aggressive and playing good defense, focused defense, from top to bottom. Miami don’t need LeBron to score and shoot on every play to win. They need him to be great at everything else.