What LeBron's 5 Greatest Games Forecast for 2012-13
Considering he's the best player in the NBA, LeBron James has had some out-of-this-world performances over the years. But instead of just marveling at them, let's examine them and figure out what they say about how the Miami Heat superstar will perform in 2012-13.
Take LeBron's 45-point evisceration of the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals. There's much to be learned from that game about him and not just from a skill standpoint.
We'll take a deeper look into that performance and four other fantastic ones to get a better understanding of just how LeBron is going to play this season.
Game 4 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals
In a must-win game for the Heat, down 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the Indiana Pacers, LeBron James dominated in every facet of the game, pouring in 40 points, grabbing 18 rebounds and dishing out nine assists in a Heat victory.
How incredible was his performance? Well, the last NBA player to post a 40-18-9 stat line in the postseason was Elgin Baylor in 1961.
With James also posting two steals and two blocks, this performance represents the perfect LeBron game. He didn't settle for jumpers or long-range shots; he simply attacked the basket relentlessly all game long. He created shots for teammates (some nobody saw coming) while also dominating the boards and putting forth tremendous effort on the defensive end.
This performance is especially encouraging for the 2012-13 season, as it shows that an in-his-prime LeBron James can do whatever he wants on a basketball court.
More specifically, though, it shows that, because of LeBron, the Heat won't be sacrificing rebounds despite their commitment to small ball. Expect a big year from LBJ on the glass.
Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals
All the way back in 2007, before he was an un-clutch villain, Cleveland Cavalier LeBron almost beat the Detroit Pistons by himself. In the fourth quarter and in the two overtimes of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, LBJ scored the Cavs' last 25 points (also 29 of the team's last 30 points) in a 109-107 victory.
LeBron finished the game with 48 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, but let's focus on the late-game heroics here.
While this game was more than five years ago, it can teach us about LeBron today. It's a performance in which LeBron showed that he can absolutely take over offensively if needed late in a game (and given their roster, that Cavs team definitely needed it).
Another example of this type of performance came in Game 5 of the Heat's 2011 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Celtics, when LeBron scored the team's final 10 points to eliminate Boston.
With that resume and all the confidence that he has from winning his third MVP, an NBA title and an Olympic gold medal in 2012, expect LeBron to often close out games for the Heat this season.
Game 4 of the 2012 NBA Finals
LeBron James posted a fantastic line of 26 points (10-of-20 from the field), nine rebounds and 12 assists in Game 4 of the 2012 NBA Finals. But I only want to focus on one of his shots in this game: a three-pointer with two minutes and 50 seconds left.
LeBron was suffering badly from cramps, could barely walk and would be removed from the game for the second time since the 5:15 mark shortly after, but the Heat badly needed a basket, seeing as their lead, which was once 90-83, had now become a 94-94 tie.
That's when James, with the shot clock winding down, swished a three-pointer. Considering his health and how the momentum of the game had completely shifted to the Thunder's side prior to the shot, if he doesn't knock down that three, the Heat probably lose the game.
Whether LeBron had actually previously lost his confidence on late-game shots or not, he has to be more confident than ever after this shot.
I expect to see LeBron more willing to take (and make) game-deciding and last-second shots this season.
Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals
Facing elimination against the Boston Celtics and after a summer of people talking about how he is a choker who can't win an NBA title and saying that the Heat should fire Erik Spoelstra and dismantle the Big Three, LeBron willed Miami to victory with 45 points (19-of-26 from the field), 15 rebounds and five assists (in TD Garden, mind you).
To put LeBron's Game 6 in perspective, only Wilt Chamberlain has ever posted a 45-15-5 line in a postseason game.
Given the circumstances, it was the best performance of LeBron's career. It put to bed any question that LeBron wasn't a big-game performer, and it also, through his unfazed-by-the-moment facial expressions, showed LeBron's killer instinct that many thought didn't exist.
This performance demonstrated that LeBron is as unstoppable as they get offensively and is on track to be considered, at least, one of the five greatest players of all time. Expect him to perform like one in 2012-13.
Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals
LBJ becomes championship-less no more.
LeBron posted the eighth triple-double in his postseason career, with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists in the title-clinching Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
This was yet another all-around excellent game for James, but it's the end result rather than the performance itself that is the most telling about how LBJ will play this season.
While Game 6 in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics ended all talk of LeBron not being a big-game player, this triple-double and victory ended all talk of LeBron not being a winner. This result meant LeBron no longer had to worry about being placed next to Charles Barkley on the list of the best NBA players to never win a title. This result ended the negative scrutiny from fans and media alike that LeBron had received since "The Decision."
Because of all that, I expect LeBron to play freer in 2012-13.
LeBron lifted the basketball world's biggest weight off his shoulders; just watch him celebrate to Kanye West's "Power" as Game 5 ended, and that much is clear.
LeBron doesn't have to worry about tuning out his critics during a game like he's had to in the past because who's still a critic of him?
This will be LeBron's best season of his career, and it's because this win led to the distracting circus surrounding him leaving town.
All LeBron has to worry about is playing his game now. And the NBA sure is "his game" these days.