James added to his legacy with a Game 4 performance that will go down in his pantheon of spectacular games. The world’s greatest player erupted for 49 points in a 102-96 win in front of an awe-struck Barclays Center crowd. The point barrage tied James’ career-high in a playoff game.
The topic du jour all series has been the sense of “urgency,” and James had it. He attacked the paint with abandon, he defended with ferocity, and with the game on the line, he made the right basketball play to find the open man. Teammate Chris Bosh did the rest.
In what was a nail-biter all the way through, Bosh buried the corner three-pointer with 57 seconds left to ultimately decide the game. James drove into traffic, and when the second Net gravitated, he kicked the ball to a wide open Mario Chalmers. The Miami point guard went one step further and found his center in the right corner.
Once again, the Nets find themselves on the brink.
“This was very difficult to swallow,” center Kevin Garnett said. “It’s hard to take, but that’s what it is. One guy can obviously score a lot of points and he is hurting you. ... Shoulda, coulda, woulda’s won’t help us at this point.”
Even though the Nets had every opportunity to win the game, the arena almost sensed that LeBron would will his team to victory. He was prepared to do anything necessary to win a pivotal swing game.
“I already knew what was about to happen,” James said of his deferral to Chalmers. “I already knew he was going find [Bosh]. As soon as it got to [Chalmers], I knew it was going to be good.”
The Nets must now go to Miami to try and salvage their season.
James does not seem like the kind of player interested in relinquishing any momentum, though. Throughout the entire game, James’ teammates had a very “Cleveland” feel to them. Aside from Dwyane Wade, James failed to receive the kind of help that would have ensured a comfortable victory.
James’ road performance is the kind that will put him in the discussion for greatest player of all-time. Perhaps more impressive than his hellacious drives to the basket was his willingness to put the game in Bosh’s hands. As Spoelstra pointed out before the game, LeBron’s court-vision and “read” of the game is nearly unparalleled.
“There’s a lot that goes through my mind during a basketball game,” James said. “There’s so much reading, reacting, going through plays in my mind that haven’t even happened yet.
“People always talk about my basketball IQ but I don’t really talk about it as much,” James added. “I see a lot going on in the game that I’m not sure if everyone sees, and I’m happy to give it to my teammates since it benefits us.”
One must wonder where this Heat team would be without him. Cleveland surely does on a daily basis. To put LeBron on the same pedestal as Michael Jordan, one must dig deeper into the numbers.
Jordan needed eight years to win his first championship after a legendary close to his NCAA career at North Carolina. Too many fans and analysts placed undue pressure on James so early on his career, but he has continually risen to the occasion. After LeBron had carried the Cavaliers on his back to the NBA Finals, he opted to “take his talents to South Beach.” Winning really did matter to him, as it does now.
“I felt the need that we needed to win this game,” James said. “So whatever I needed to do for us to win this game, it needed to be done. Offensively, defensively, just being the leader that I am on the floor just trying to help us overcome any adversity during the game that presents itself.”
Jordan has always had a better supporting cast, too. When the Chicago Bull prematurely retired for baseball, his basketball team devolved from a 57-win team to a 55-win squad. The Cavaliers after LeBron? They went from 61 wins to 19 and the first pick in the Draft.
And when his teammates anxiously looked to him to lead them, James acquiesced. He is now one win away from another Eastern Conference Finals appearance. Will he get to add to his consecutive championships?