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LeBron James is suddenly looking very clutch

May 19, 2011, 12:05 PM EDT

Miami Heat v Chicago Bulls - Game Two Getty Images

Fair or not, deserved or not, the national narrative on LeBron James has been that he wasn’t clutch. For all the games he took over, despite some impressive endings, the perception that he quit in Game 5 against the Celtics last season seemed the dominant memory for many.

LeBron doesn’t have a ring. Kobe has a ring. Wade had a ring. That made those two more clutch in the eyes of many.

That perception should be changed now.

LeBron took over at the end of Game 2 Wednesday night, getting 9 of his points in the final four-plus minutes of the game, plus he spent a chunk of his time covering and shutting down Derrick Rose on defense. In a game where the Miami Heat had to grab defensive rebounds, he had 10 boards. In the Heat’s biggest game of the season, he played his best.

Or maybe his best was last series against Boston, when he flat out took over the end of a couple games.

Either way, the narrative is changing. Look what Adrian Wojnarowski wrote at Yahoo.

This was clutch, winning basketball out of James. As closers go, this was pure Jordan, pure heartbreak.

“That’s why we put the ball in his hands,” Dwyane Wade(notes) said. “He’s going to make the big plays.”

Clutchness gets defined in odd ways. Some great shots or missed opportunities weigh more heavily than others. It’s a matter or perception, with some eye-of-the-beholder thrown in. Tom Haberstroh of ESPN tweeted this on Wednesday.

90% of clutch reputation can be explained by two factors: 1) Are you a shot-creator?; 2) Do you have a ring?

Coming into these playoffs, a lot of basketball fans would have said that LeBron was not clutch. He did not have that ring.

Things seem to be changing on both of those counts.

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  1. andrejohnsonforpresident - May 19, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    He’s really starting to come into his own in these playoffs. You can tell when there’s 10 minutes left he steps into a different gear. Which is crucial when you think the first 3 quarters both teams are more or less trying to keep up with each other. If the score is tied with 10 left in the game it might as well be zero-zero. Its practically a different game at that point and thats when everything really counts.

  2. christlife1931 - May 19, 2011 at 1:02 PM

    it’s time for the king to get a ring!!!!!!!

  3. purdueman - May 19, 2011 at 1:17 PM

    The author got James first name wrong again… it’s La BUM!, not La Bron.

    • southbeachtalent - May 19, 2011 at 1:51 PM

      Wow that was original…

    • chargerdillon - May 19, 2011 at 1:59 PM

      You gonna call him that when he mops the floor with your Bulls down in Miami?

      Of course you will, that’s what sore losers do

    • mytthor - May 19, 2011 at 2:06 PM

      Actually it’s not “La” anything, it’s LeBron. Oh wait, I see what you did there. You don’t like him so you changed his name to something! You must be the most clever guy in your kindergarten class.

      But seriously, Carlos Poozer and Luol Dung really need to step up if the Bulls are gonna have a chance.

  4. nfl25 - May 19, 2011 at 1:20 PM

    The Bulls missed 14 of their first 16 shots. They shot 34 percent (28-of-82) from the field, 3-of-20 from three-point range. They missed 10-of-26 free throws and were outrebounded 45-41. Derrick Rose shot 7-of-23 from the field. And the Bulls still were tied 73-73 with less than 5:00 to play and trailed 78-75 with 2:29 to go.

    Hopefully they dont have another game like that and they should be ok

    • southbeachtalent - May 19, 2011 at 1:52 PM

      Firing up the excuse machine huh?

      If my Aunt had balls she’d be my Uncle.

      • philtration - May 19, 2011 at 2:34 PM

        If your Aunt had balls that would make one of you.

      • savvybynature - May 19, 2011 at 2:58 PM

        Its not really an excuse, the dude came with numbers.

        I thnk it’s a valid point. The Heat do play good defense, but it seems unlikely that the Bulls will shot 35% from the floor and 15% from 3 for the rest of the series.

      • philtration - May 19, 2011 at 4:40 PM

        I never called him LeBum you idiot.
        Do you even read the comments before you respond to them?

    • rickperez473 - May 19, 2011 at 2:27 PM

      If those numbers were reversed you’d be saying, “did you see how the bulls shut the heat down??” But since it’s the other way around, the bulls beat themselves.

      • southbeachtalent - May 19, 2011 at 3:25 PM

        No we haven’t won a game in the play-offs. It’s the opponents losing that has advanced us. We have Le-Bum as phil the tool so cleverly called him, Wade the whiner AKA dirty player and Bosh the softie. Yet we seem to have success. Ahh I guess it’s those other teams that keep losing. We are sooo lucky!

      • philtration - May 19, 2011 at 4:49 PM

        I never called him LeBum you idiot.
        Do you even read the comments before you respond to them?


    • miami4allday - May 19, 2011 at 3:29 PM


      • southbeachtalent - May 19, 2011 at 4:31 PM

        Nahh that happens all the time according to Wilbon. I guess yesterday was an anomaly.

  5. jb4820 - May 19, 2011 at 2:36 PM

    Before calling LeBron clutch, remember that this is only the conference finals where he has already been….wait till he does this in the NBA finals ala Jordan, Kobe and others and then call him clutch. The Celtics were old this year and the Bulls are clearly not as talented as the Heat so the he should be winning 1 of 2 in Chicago….one good game can be erased if he implodes the rest of the Bulls series or does not bring home a ring in the finals. When you agree to join forces with a dream team and announce that you are going to win many titles, anything short of that is a choke, not clutch….even if he wins one, he will be doing it on a dream team. Kobe was beaten by the Suns in 2006-07 and then the Celtics in 2008. He didn’t bail and join forces, he pushed his ownership to get better, made his teammates better with his leadership and eliminated both of them last year on his way to back to back finals MVPs. See locker room speech after they lost game 5 in Boston last year. That is leadership and without that, one can really never be clutch.

    • heat256 - May 20, 2011 at 9:30 AM

      It wasn’t for a lack of trying. Kobe did make some noise about wanting to be traded, and Phil left for a year in part because he was tired of dealing with Kobe’s diva antics. His “leadership” involves berating his teammates when they don’t do well and shooting 6-24 in a game 7. Please. He’s good but I wouldn’t call him clutch. He has missed plenty of shots in “clutch” situations.

  6. andrejohnsonforpresident - May 19, 2011 at 3:18 PM

    I’m not a homer for either side and while its unlikely that the bulls go 3-20 or w/e from 3 pt land. I feel when you have two defensive power houses like this there will always be a crazy stat such as that. I mean if you break it down this basically explains the game, they had good defense in the paint and against rose, which caused more dump off passes to the outside and decent perimeter defense caused them to miss more 3’s. Look for something like this to happen in most of their games imo.

    • heat256 - May 20, 2011 at 9:38 AM

      They are roughly a 35% 3 pt shooting team during the season. Factor in their game 1 shooting with game 2 and they are at around 31%, so well within their norm. Their lack of a true 2nd scoring option is what could be problematic. They have many role players (who are amazing ones at that, so no disrespect there), but no true 2nd star. Boozer? He seems to be shrinking with each game that passes in the playoffs. Noah? Great defender and rebounder, but not a scorer. Deng? Possibly but his main occupation is defense on LeBron, and that takes a lot out of a player. Korver? No way. Can’t score or defend consistently. It comes down to Rose playing smart basketball and creating more for his teammates while shooting a good percentage. A 7-24 clunker isn’t going to help them win.

  7. king7key - May 19, 2011 at 4:36 PM

    Raise your hand if you think the heat will win this series….Now go head and slap yourself with that same hand

  8. randommofo - May 19, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    LeBron’s been ‘clutch’ for years, only because of the Boston-Cavs series and ‘The Decision’, the perception changed drastically.

    He’s just playing the same game he has for years, except this time there’s a fun narrative for dumbass media members (i.e. Kurt Helin) to roll with

  9. mk2323 - May 19, 2011 at 5:31 PM

    Purdue and Phil need to fall back with the weak comments. Both you bums are probably from Cleveland and can’t get over the fact that a few weeks from now Bron will be holding the O’Brien trophy.

  10. trueballs - May 19, 2011 at 5:53 PM

    back to the article

    I think it was the 2009-2010 season that established Kobe’s almighty “clutchness.” He had something like 8 or 9 buzzer beaters to win or tie a game throughout the regular season. It really was amazing. But I’m curious to see the numbers on how clutch he’s been in the playoffs and finals throughout his career. Sure he has the killer instinct to take over late in games, but we’ve also seen a healthy amount of late game heroics (aka offensive rebounds off Kobe misses) by great teammates like Gasol, Artest, Fisher, Horry, Shaq.

    In Cleveland LeBron had to have been somewhat clutch in the playoffs to never have a first-round exit. And who was his No.2 option all those years? If you’re positive LBJ is not a clutch player then nothing will ever convince you (aka “hater”).

  11. cleoface - May 19, 2011 at 8:38 PM

    One good game does not equal clutch. LaQuit will choke. It’s not a matter of if, it’s when. He has a lot of talent but no heart. Wade is a fine citizen too. A fine family man and a true sportsman, just ask Rondo

    • trueballs - May 20, 2011 at 12:14 PM

      You’re right. One good game does not equal clutch. But clearly you didn’t watch the last two Boston games, game3 or 4 against boston last year, ECF ’09 game2 in against magic, a couple historic ECF games against Detroit in ’07, and more.

      and what is with you dumb uneducated haters who write LaBum LaQuit or LaChoke? LE LE LE LE LeBron. jesus he’s not freakin spanish or south american. learn to spell

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