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NBA Playoffs: Heat can’t survive career-low scoring performance from LeBron

Jun 8, 2011, 1:07 AM EDT

Miami Heat v Dallas Mavericks - Game Four Getty Images

For the fourth time in the 2011 NBA Finals, the Heat came into the fourth quarter with a big lead. For the second time, they came away with a loss, this time by a final score of 86-83. And for the second time, the Heat’s failure to secure a victory can be traced directly back to the play of LeBron James, who spent the regular season and the first three rounds of the playoffs clearly establishing himself as both the league and the team’s best player.

In Game 2, LeBron didn’t shoot much, but it was his fourth-quarter performance that was the real problem: James was efficient for the first three quarters, then, along with Wade, hijacked the offense and fired long jumpers as the Heat watched their lead dwindle away and a commanding 2-0 series lead turn into a tie series.

In Game 4, LeBron was off from the opening tip to the final whistle. Even though he was guarded by the 6-4, 38 year old Jason Kidd for much of the game, James never looked to be aggressive offensively, and missed easy shots when he did. James made some nice passes and had some nice rebounds, but the Heat desperately needed some scoring from James to put the Mavericks away, and he responded with the lowest-scoring game of his playoff career, with zero points in the fourth quarter.

LeBron has had some tough playoff exits in the past, but the blow was always softened by poor performances from his supporting cast, even in the infamous Boston games that ended his time with the Cavaliers. That’s not the case here. The Heat’s bench outplayed the Mavericks’ in terms of +/-, Wade was again spectacular, and Bosh added 24 points on his own. After this loss, LeBron has nobody to blame but himself.

It was hard to imagine how LeBron could have thrown away the goodwill he earned with the dominant all-around and crunch-time performances that beat the Celtics and the Bulls, but he seems to be finding it.

This is now a best-of-three series, and there’s no doubt that these next three games will be the most important ones of LeBron’s eight-year career. The Heat sweeping the Mavericks with Wade as the clear head of the snake would have been an interesting compromise for LeBron’s legacy; he would have finally gotten that elusive ring, but would have had to rely on a teammate to bring it home for him.

That’s still in play, but now there are two other possibilities. If the Heat lose, this will be the absolute nadir of his career. I didn’t think that LeBron’s public perception could reach a new low after his final Boston performances and the “Decision” fiasco that followed it, but that possibility is now in play. On the biggest stage, LeBron has failed to deliver, and the Heat would already be planning their parade if he had.

On the other hand, LeBron could realize just how important these next three games are to his legacy, turn things around, and put the Mavericks away with one or two dominant performances, which will make the Heat’s two losses a little-known footnote in the Story Of LeBron.

The Heat can win with LeBron playing a role other than that of the primary scorer and crunch-time assassin. They cannot survive James playing passively and waiting for his superstar teammates, the teammates he sacrificed his public image to play with, to hand-deliver him a ring.

With the NBA Finals coming down to the wire, just like three of the four games played in it so far have, LeBron needs to step up and make his mark. The fans know it, the media knows it, his coach knows it, and his teammates knows it. Over the next week or so, we’ll find out if LeBron has what it takes to silence his doubters once and for all and win a championship, or if he’s content to have more games like this and be the laughingstock of the NBA until he finally gets that championship ring on his finger.

 

  1. ljl2 - Jun 8, 2011 at 1:17 AM

    …Somewhere in LA Mike Brown is laughing…

  2. seahawkhuskyfan - Jun 8, 2011 at 1:20 AM

    LeBron who?

  3. savvybynature - Jun 8, 2011 at 1:27 AM

    Can we at least stop comparing him to Jordan now?

    Jordan’s lowest scoring finals game: 22 points.

    Oh yeah, and there is that whole 6 finals appearances, 6 rings, 6 MVPs thing.

    LBJ: 8 points!?! WTF!?!

    Wade is clearly better than LBJ right now. So is Dirk. He is maybe slightly ahead of Bosh for 3rd best player in this series right now, and people wanna say he is the greatest ever?

    • steelersnlakers - Jun 8, 2011 at 1:00 PM

      Can you imagine Michael, Magic, Bird, Olajuwon, any of the true greats having a series like this? Is it just me, or does Lebron come across as just not that smart? Listen to his grammar in interviews, it’s horrible! Has he been so coddled and protected his whole life that he doesn’t know how to manage his image? We LOVED this guy in Cleveland, since then he’s been dumber than dumb.

  4. ezwriter69 - Jun 8, 2011 at 1:40 AM

    Nine points total for LeBron in four fourth quarters in this series, all close games.
    Any comments now, Mr. Pippen?

  5. fern361mia - Jun 8, 2011 at 4:14 AM

    Stop hating on lebron get over it he had a bad offensive night. Like wade did against chicago,dosent mean they are not great players. Because they are both of them. Everyone wants to compare him to the greats ,but let him finish his carrer first. He can easily come out play great in games 5 and 6 win the finals mvp and he be the best again. Because this is a what have you done lately league everyone will forget the bad games. Just like the before him you fail and then you succeed. But I’m a wade fan ,we still going to win but wade is the mvp. That doesnt make lebron less great.

    • almzor - Jun 8, 2011 at 1:48 PM

      None of the “greats” had the temerity to get “Chosen One” tattooed across their backs, much less any of the other stunts LeBron has pulled. He hasn’t complained about being in the conversation with other great players, nor has he turned down the perks that has afforded him. (Like hour long prime time TV specials, or having executives fly to his house.) He can take the bad press that comes with under performing in the situations where great players are supposed to step up their game.

  6. diablito0402 - Jun 8, 2011 at 6:47 AM

    People like fern here always trying tojustify lechokes crappy performances. Come on its noy hating its reality man, lbj is good but not as good as his fans think he is, he lacks a lot on the mental side, jordan would never allow his team to loose in a close finals game like that.

    • mrnovacaine - Jun 8, 2011 at 8:01 AM

      Twice

    • southbeachtalent - Jun 8, 2011 at 8:47 AM

      Crappy performances? Besides this series where has LeBron played crappy? It’s called knee-jerk reaction. I agree that he played horrible last night, but I am going to give credit to the Mavs defense, they played great. LeBron will comeback as usual and hopefully give us a better chance at game 5. Besides series is tied, nothing to be down about.

      People, get over the Jordan comparissons, he himself has stated time and time again that he is no Jordan. When you guys say Dirk is better than LeBron or Wade is better than LeBron you are going by the last game these guys played. What you should be looking at is body of work not the last game. Did you guys start watching basketball yesterday? Regardless it’s becoming a great series and it’s going to be a hard fought battle. Go Heat!!

  7. rbrown4495 - Jun 8, 2011 at 8:41 AM

    OH BOY, WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON WITH MY HEAT. This is a championship to remember, I’ve been on the edge of my seat for the entire series, wow. Gotta give Dallas some of the credit for playing great defense as well but Miami will pull this off, just making it harder on themselves than it should be. Come on coach make some adjustments to help the out.

  8. macbull - Jun 8, 2011 at 9:18 AM

    Quote: “LeBron could realize just how important these next three games are to his legacy, turn things around, and put the Mavericks away with one or two dominant performances, which will make the Heat’s two losses a little-known footnote in the Story Of LeBron.”
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    WRONG…Lebron will “always” be remembered for the way he left Cleveland…and I’m not from Cleveland.

    Until the moment of “The Decision”…Lebron was viewed as a young Superstar with a degree of class and integrity..someone mature beyond his years…someone who conducted himself in a way you wished all responsible Pro athletes would.

    The Decision exposed a side of Lebron that many basketball fans, did not know existed. Remember, before “The Decision”, Lebron had a fan base that extended beyond the Cavaliers, beyond Cleveland…all across the USA. Lebron had fans who were “Lebron fans”, not simply because of his basketball skills, but for the way he conducted himself.

    It was not that Lebron left Cleveland…it was “the way” he left Cleveland…with a one hour TV special that was viewed by Lebron’s own fan base as a slap in the face to the city of Cleveland, the Cleveland fans and the Cleveland franchise. Suddenly, the image of a young Superstar who was mature and so full of class and integrity, exposed himself as being none of the above.

    Lebron may not have realized it at that time, but he cashed in “his own integrity” on July 9, 2010.
    Lebron destroyed his own image with the way he chose to leave Cleveland and an NBA Championship will not restore what Lebron lost on that day in July a year ago…his integrity !

    • 1historian - Jun 8, 2011 at 10:41 AM

      He has acknowledged numerous times what a colossal mistake that was and he has apologized numerous times.

      I realize there are many of you out there who need to continue hating him.

      Be happy

      • almzor - Jun 8, 2011 at 3:05 PM

        Acknowledgment is not rectification, it is merely a step in the right direction. Sadly LeBron apologists think that is all that needs to be done. You can’t wash away mistakes that easily.

        I’m happy enough, thanks for asking.

  9. jkm0 - Jun 8, 2011 at 9:18 AM

    Hey, he got a triple single, get off his back!

  10. diablito0402 - Jun 8, 2011 at 10:11 AM

    Yes south beach crappy performances, hes played in 8 finals games now, and he aint done crap in either, playoff is one thing and finals is another. Yess i agree lbj has said he aint no jordan, but im talking about the people who just cant leave it alone and say hes better than the athlete of the (1900′s) ya dig. Hes just like peyton manning, greatest player in the regulars season buy mediocre at best when it counts,, in the post season.

  11. diablito0402 - Jun 8, 2011 at 10:14 AM

    Why dont we talk about the OG miami heat stud in wade. Dallas would be up 3-1 if it wasnt wade, how come he dont get no love from anyone, he truly deserves it.

  12. mikemidhts - Jun 8, 2011 at 11:14 AM

    His elbow if probably bothering him again . . . that’s all.

  13. jeffnmac - Jun 8, 2011 at 11:22 AM

    Here is a heat fan!!! Lebron played like crap last night and there is not one person who is a heat fan or a basketball fanatic who would tell you that. Yet with all that aside a bad gam is a bad game and the rest of the heat team members made up for him all that they could… The only critique i can really give Lebron is the fact that he did not only shoot poor from the field but he rarely looked for an opportunity to score if he didnt have a break away or the shot clock wasnt low. This was hard to watch when WE ALL saw how dominantly he can get to the basket. All in all a bad game is a bad game Lebron is only getting chastised for the moment but will glorified in the end. GO HEAT AND SHUT THESE HATERS UP!! (because anti-heat/LBJ fans are going to die out after the mavs go home ringless)

  14. sportsguygerald - Jun 8, 2011 at 12:55 PM

    I’ve never been a fan of The King, he is an extraordinarily gifted player, but I don’t think he has the mental toughness that Wade has. To me, the decision to sign with the Heat was an admission that he wasn’t able to carry a team on his back to the title. Last night’s performance, or rather lack of, seems to raise the question of heart. He wasn’t the Heat’s Batman, or Robin last night, or even Commissioner Gordon firing up the Bat signal, I think perhaps it was a combo of the Joker and the Riddler. Maybe he will make another “Decision” and show some heart and will to win on Thursday. I certainly hope not, because I’m a Heat Hater

  15. dirtybird2020 - Jun 8, 2011 at 2:37 PM

    What do you expect he didnt goto college, and most likely got walked through highschool! He can apoligize but he still cant get his integrety back!
    Quote: “LeBron could realize just how important these next three games are to his legacy, turn things around, and put the Mavericks away with one or two dominant performances, which will make the Heat’s two losses a little-known footnote in the Story Of LeBron.”
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    WRONG…Lebron will “always” be remembered for the way he left Cleveland…and I’m not from Cleveland.

    Until the moment of “The Decision”…Lebron was viewed as a young Superstar with a degree of class and integrity..someone mature beyond his years…someone who conducted himself in a way you wished all responsible Pro athletes would.

    The Decision exposed a side of Lebron that many basketball fans, did not know existed. Remember, before “The Decision”, Lebron had a fan base that extended beyond the Cavaliers, beyond Cleveland…all across the USA. Lebron had fans who were “Lebron fans”, not simply because of his basketball skills, but for the way he conducted himself.

    It was not that Lebron left Cleveland…it was “the way” he left Cleveland…with a one hour TV special that was viewed by Lebron’s own fan base as a slap in the face to the city of Cleveland, the Cleveland fans and the Cleveland franchise. Suddenly, the image of a young Superstar who was mature and so full of class and integrity, exposed himself as being none of the above.

    Lebron may not have realized it at that time, but he cashed in “his own integrity” on July 9, 2010.
    Lebron destroyed his own image with the way he chose to leave Cleveland and an NBA Championship will not restore what Lebron lost on that day in July a year ago…his integrity !

    Well said perfect, you can also say he lost his competiveness also lbj hater for life, crazy how i used tobe a fan!

  16. dirtybird2020 - Jun 8, 2011 at 4:07 PM

    How does this guy accept the role of the chosen one when he joins wade!!! Remove that tattoo, its more like the chosen 2! What a bum! Lbj hater for life, no respect for that disgrace to the game! No competetiveness , no integrity in his name, even if he won 6 titles! No jordan, no kobe, no magic, no bird!

  17. norcalraider510 - Jun 8, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    lebron should have had 6 points—–>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foaPMZxtzx4

    • coyoteptm - Jun 8, 2011 at 5:08 PM

      Wow. What a joke. I’m bookmarking that on my phone so anybody who wants to argue about how much of a stud “the chosen one” is – I’ll show them that. Argument over.

  18. diablito0402 - Jun 8, 2011 at 4:39 PM

    Im with you dirty bird, people always justify all of hes bad performances, and there has been quite a few in the playoffs. Man only if he would of stayed in cleveland and won the right way like a true choosen one. But this is reality, he aint no leader and has to follow wade.

  19. delius1967 - Jun 8, 2011 at 5:29 PM

    What I want to know is why winning a championship will validate him in any case. This whole “you have to win a championship to be considered among the best” is stupid. There are literally hundreds of players who have won championships, very very few of them are better players than LeBron (or Dirk, for that matter).

    Even if the Heat go on to win this series, it won’t be LeBron’s win — it will be Wade’s. Wade has clearly been the best player on the court during the series even accounting for Dirk’s finger and flu. In fact, without Wade, the series is probably already over; at the very least it would be 3-1 Dallas. You can’t say that about LeBron.

    I don’t personally have any respect for James, the way he clearly thinks himself above the game itself, and the way he pouted and left Cleveland so he wouldn’t have to be “the man” even though he still wants everyone to think he is. But give him his due. The guy is clearly a freak of nature and one of the best individual players the game has ever seen.

  20. robertallen1958 - Jun 8, 2011 at 8:50 PM

    this is the difference between stars and superstars, LBJ is just an above average star, he likes to posterize not so gifted players, but when the chips are down and the spot light shines, superstars seize the moment, they want the ball they want it all! in a game with so much on the line do you think for a minute that Magic, Bird, MJ, Kareem would have risk the game passing it off and drifting to the weak side, nope i think not, hell i remember Kareem’s last game, 42 years old, only scored 10 points, but at the end of the game they doubled him, he wanted to leave Cleveland because their fans wanted him to be their “superstar” and he doesn’t want anything to do with that, pass the ball of LBJ to someone who wants it!

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