A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Is Lebron’s Game 3 against the Pacers destined to be a forgotten meltdown?

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Wizards v/s Heat 03/30/11

Wizards v/s Heat 03/30/11 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I watched the Heat let the Pacers blow them out to a 2-1 lead in Game 3, I eagerly awaited for the 3rd year in a row, the morning after reaction to yet another Lebron disappearance in the most important game of the season so far. From a 43-43 tied score at halftime to the 4:16 mark of the 4th when lead 86-67 (the game essentially over), Lebron went 1-7 with no free throw line attempts except a missed technical (bookended by a Granger staredown and Lance Stephenson choke sign) and no shot attempts within 10 feet – for 2 total points. Once again in game seizing time, Lebron’s production shrank as he timidly put up jumpshots.

Yet the reaction has been nowhere near what it was after the disappearing act in the 2011 Finals or Game 5 against Boston in 2010. The reason for this is a few things. Thanks to his play in the first half and garbage time, Lebron still put up 22 pts (10-22), 7 rebounds, 3 assists, a respectable number. Secondly Wade had arguably the worst game of his career, let alone playoff career, with 5 pts (2-13), 5 TOVs, and a scuffle with Erik Spoelestra, to wear the goathorns moreso than James. Finally, as has been the case the rest of the series, the Heat simply had no depth past Lebron, Wade and Mario Chalmers’ excellent 25 pt night offensively – with Shane Battier, Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem continuing to be MIA.

Thus the reaction has been for the most part that Lebron simply didn’t have the help this game, as he hasn’t all series.

I’m not buying it.

Yes, Lebron was the reason the game was tied at halftime. Yes, the difference in this series has been the lack of talent depth for the Heat compared to the Pacers. But at the end of the day, the numbers don’t lie. After a tie score at halftime, in the next 17:44 of the remaining 24 minutes, Indiana outscored the Heat 43-24 and Lebron had 2 pts and no attempts at the rim and no foul shots. After the last 2 years the burden is on Lebron to “Prove his greatness”. It’s not so much that he should be blamed for Miami losing Games 2 and 3 because of his missed free throws in the Final minute of Game 2 or his disappearing act in that nearly 18 minute 2nd half stretch in Game 3, it’s that he didn’t seize the moment or rise above the occasion either. He may not have lost the game for the Heat, but he had a golden oppurtunity to help them win it and fell short. What compounds it is that after the last 2 years, Lebron is “due”. It’s one thing for Dwyane Wade to have a god awful game after an all-time playoff performance in 2006 to steal the title and another dynamite Finals performance in 2011. But if Lebron wants to get the monkey off his back – the media created sensation about his lack of knads in the playoffs and ability to secure an NBA title – It’s not as much about being as good as expected, as much as rising above what’s expected. This series is a Par 4 and Lebron has hit onto the fairway, onto the green 12 feet from the hole, and then two putted to get a par on the hole. This is fine enough but if Lebron wants to be one of the 10 greatest players of all time, then a par isn’t enough. He needs a dynamic approach shot that lands 3 feet near the hole for an easy birdie. He needs to get on the green in 2 on a Par 5 and knock in an eagle. This is what Lebron hasn’t done in Games 2 and 3 of this series.

Ultimately if the Heat lose this series, I don’t expect Game 3 to go down in history quite like the WTF disappearing act of Lebron in the 2011 Finals or Game 5 of the 2010 series. But I will remember it and put it in my little black book of player playoff disappointments. The moments that decide a series aren’t always between Games 5 and 7 when it’s a win or die situation. A win in Game 3 against the Pacers gives the Heat home court advantage again (forcing Indiana to win a second away game to take the series), takes the wind out of the Pacers players’ sails. After a loss like Game 2 at home, often real championship caliber teams will come back and win the next road game to take control of the series again. Look at how the Boston Celtics annihilated Philadelphia in Game 3 after losing home court advantage in Game 2. They turned a series identical to the Heat-Pacers one after two games with people talking about an upset for the Sixers, into one that Boston now fully controls. That is why the Heat loss last night was crucial and why Lebron’s latest disappearing act, while likely underrated one day, could be a key moment in his career.

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Written by jr.

May 18, 2012 at 12:13 pm

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