May 30, 2013, 11:55 PM EDT
LeBron James dribbled around the perimeter, searching for a shot as the shot clock ran down late in the third quarter. Finally, realizing he couldn’t generate a quality look for himself or a teammate, LeBron rose for 25-foot 3-pointer and held his follow through as he backpedaled back on defense.
Of course, the shot hit nothing but net as LeBron slipped out of the frame.
LeBron was in his own world during the third quarter of the Heat’s 90-79 win over the Pacers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. From a driving layup early in the quarter to his shot-clock-beating 3-pointer near the period’s close, LeBron scored or assisted on 25 of 29 straight Miami points. By the time his reign of dominance ended, the Heat had turned a five-point deficit into a 14-point lead.
The Pacers didn’t come closer than eight, which they did after a quick run to begin the fourth quarter with LeBron on the bench. Like the Cavaliers have done since LeBron’s departure from Cleveland, it seemed the Heat were just reinforcing LeBron’s greatness by showing how far they fell without him.
LeBron – who finished with 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists – has shown such brilliance throughout the playoffs, but he hadn’t shown this level concentrated dominance until now.
He hadn’t taken so many shots in a single quarter since mid March, and he hadn’t scored so many points in a quarter in the 2013 calendar year.
But when his team needed him most, its favored status to reach its third straight NBA Finals slipping away, LeBron dominated.
His third quarter tonight alone – 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting, four rebounds and four assists – would have given him enough points to tie for the team lead, enough rebounds to tie for third and enough assists to tie for second. LeBron outscored the Pacers on his own, 16-13, in the quarter the Heat won, 30-13.
He chalked it up to becoming more aggressive, and that was a large part. But he’s the special player whose scoring can take over the game without suffocating everything else. He still passed well, and he still defended. That’s why the Heat dominated right along with him.
- Miami’s third-quarter offensive rating: 151.8
- Miami’s third-quarter defensive rating: 59.2
“That’s LeBron,” Heat coach coach Erick Spoelstra told reporters after the game, “showing his greatness and making it look easy.”