He stood there, cold-hearted. No smile graced his face. No celebrations were heard in TD Garden. LeBron James just walked up to the line and shot his free throws. This time no one really paid attention to whether or not they went in.
He had already put up 20+ and the half was not even over yet. James was doing everything he had been called out to do since he was 19 years old, since the 2003 NBA draft.
LeBron James carried his franchise beyond comparable measure and Boston’s fans could not have been more disappointed.
On a night where the scrutiny should have been on Dwyane Wade’s shoulders and it would have landed squarely on LeBron’s anyway, James showed up and out. A night after Kevin Durant for MVP chants were heard around the world and CBS’ Jim Rose was convinced LeBron should surrender the regular season honor, James scored 45 points on 19-of-26 shooting with 15 rebounds.
LeBron James reminded everyone exactly why he is the most notable, and probably most criticized basketball player in the league, present-day. With the exception of Wade’s 17 points, there was not a single Miami player in double digits. There is no question about what happened Thursday night.
LeBron James was one against five.
The question has finally been answered.
Whose team is this?
Just ask Dwyane Wade. He’s been echoing the true sentiment all season long. LeBron James is behind the wheel and as he goes, so does the franchise.
Does LeBron James or Dwyane Wade run the Miami Heat?
This is not to say that Boston’s lack of discipline and defense on James had nothing to do with how Miami won the game. Saying this is LeBron’s team is not even a knock on the two men that shared the preseason celebration spotlight with him in 2010.
James needs Wade, as his right hand man, and Chris Bosh on his left working around the rim and adding that wingspan to the defense.
Still, after watching what LeBron did singlehandedly against the Boston Celtics in the TD Garden, fans have no option but to respect the grit and hustle that James displayed in an elimination away-game. The Miami Heat wanted to mean business in a game that could have ended their season and James led them back to South Beach for a Game 7.
Wade has not been himself during the Eastern Conference Finals and James has had to make up for that. It should not have gone as far as to compare him to any of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ role players like Mo Williams or Daniel Gibson. He is on another level than any of those parts and has a ring to prove it.
However, Wade has not been that man for the Miami Heat. He has not even been a consistent viable backup for LeBron. There was a game in the Indiana Pacers series where everyone felt as if Wade had returned. It was Game 3, where LeBron scored 40 and he scored 30. Wade was hungry again.
Wade was back.
Just looking at his box scores, one would assume that he has done his part. That he has played his role. Yet, if fans are really watching the quarters in which Wade disappears, it would be realized that James sets the tone, and Wade has more than occasionally dropped the ball.
James played with a purpose Thursday night and that cannot be taken away from him.
Raise the flag and remind everyone how many rings he has compared to Wade.
He’ll raise his 40-point games on the way there firmly placed behind the steering wheel.