Jun 8, 2011, 1:07 AM EDT
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.
Apr 21, 2014, 11:21 AM EDT
Bulls holding news conference to announce an award
Apr 21, 2014, 10:54 AM EDT
This isn’t a euphemism, he does want to spend more time with his family.
Apr 21, 2014, 10:31 AM EDT
Luca Ginobili born this morning
Apr 21, 2014, 10:01 AM EDT
Steve Kerr next in line?
Apr 21, 2014, 9:47 AM EDT
Hawks point guard scored 28 points in Game 1 upset of Pacers
Al Jefferson got two shots in his injured foot, left arena in walking boot, plans to play through it
Apr 21, 2014, 8:44 AM EDT
Charlotte already had a slim margin for error against Miami (if that) and their star being hobbled is not helping matters.
Apr 21, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Hopefully the refs let the Clippers and Warriors play some playoff basketball this time around. Thunder/Grizzlies Game 2 as well on Monday.
Apr 21, 2014, 3:49 AM EDT
Houston point guard to have MRI Monday
Apr 21, 2014, 2:32 AM EDT
Aldridge set a Blazers record with 46 points in a playoff game. Nene reminded everyone why he got paid big bucks a few years back — when healthy he is a beast.
Apr 21, 2014, 2:29 AM EDT
Aldridge scores 46 points, grabs 18 rebounds to lead comeback
Apr 20, 2014, 10:02 PM EDT
Nene gets his first start since February and the Wizards steal Game 1.
Apr 20, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT
Kemba Walker made James Jones look bad.
Apr 20, 2014, 6:58 PM EDT
Bobcats were scrappy, but with Al Jefferson hurting Miami just had too much LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Apr 20, 2014, 5:43 PM EDT
Touching moment as Gregg Popovich delivers a heartfelt message.
Apr 20, 2014, 4:21 PM EDT
Spurs close the game on a 19-4 run after trailing by double digits.
Apr 20, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
Statement confirms referees handled replay review correctly, but also admits that they missed the initial foul call on a critical possession.
Apr 20, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
If Jim Buss fails to deliver in quickly rebuilding the Lakers, he says he’ll resign.
Apr 20, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Roy Hibbert owned up to a poor Game 1. Will he do anything about it in Game 2 is the question.
Apr 20, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Shot clocks stopped working midway through the third quarter, but Raptors say all will be well in time for Game 2.
Apr 20, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
Where you going, Evan?
- Timberwolves’ coach Rick Adelman announcenes retirement 2
- Knicks fire Mike Woodson 17
- Monday NBA playoff previews: Expect a different looking Clippers/Warriors game. 0
- Sunday NBA grades: Nene, Aldridge lead day where big men shine 4
- LaMarcus Aldridge’s Trail Blazers claw back for Game 1 win over Houston Rockets 16