LeBron James Proving There's More Than 1 Way to Win Finals MVP
There's more than one way to win an NBA Finals MVP.
LeBron hasn't been perfect by any means. Putting up 23.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 7.5 assists on 43.3 percent shooting isn't his best. Near triple-doubles are his thing but so is consistency, and LeBron has been neither consistent nor efficient.
Through six games of the series, he has shot better than 50 percent from the field once—the guy who connected on a career-best 56.5 percent of his shot attempts during the regular season. Economic scoring is supposed to be one of his other things.
As is scoring in general.
For the first three games, LeBron averaged 16.7 points a night. Over the last three, he's averaging 30. More inconsistency.
See for yourself how temperamental he's been:
Posting two triple-doubles is expected from LeBron. Finding out that the Heat are a combined minus-8 with him on the floor during the series is not.
Still, he's the Heat's most valuable player, and if my prediction holds true, the finals' one as well. No ifs, ands or "but what about this, guys" necessary.
There's no question this has been a strange series for LeBron. That's kind of the point. He's managed to carry the Heat within one victory of a second straight championship in the midst of both team-wide and individual struggles.
Game 6 saw LeBron shoot 3-of-12 from the floor through the first three quarters for 14 points. In 12 previous elimination games, he averaged 31.5 points, the highest in NBA history.
In 12 career playoff elimination games, LeBron James is averaging 31.5 PPG, still the highest average in NBA history.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 19, 2013
Where was that LeBron?
He was waiting for the fourth quarter.
Seven of his 11 shot attempts went down in the fourth. He dropped 16 points on his own—including a big three-pointer that brought the Heat within three inside half a minute to go—almost outscoring the San Antonio Spurs, who tallied 20.
Coughing the ball up at a pivotal point in the fourth quarter and going 1-of-3 from beyond the arc in the last 30 seconds wasn't LeBron. And yet again, that's the point.
Everything LeBron has done extends far beyond his scoring and shooting percentages. He's averaging more than 10 rebounds a night in the finals, he helped shut down Tony Parker (6-of-23) for much of Game 6 and he willed his Heat to a fourth-quarter comeback.
Midway through that comeback, when the Heat had cut the lead to two, LeBron treated us to one of the most LeBron moments we've ever seen.
San Antonio had the ball and Danny Green got a step (or two) on Ray Allen. Chris Andersen was forced to help off Tim Duncan in an effort to contest Green at the rim. Recognizing that Duncan was open, Green hit The Big Fundamental for an easy two.
Or so he and the rest of us thought.
LeBron, who had been defending Parker beyond the three-point line, came slashing through to block Duncan's shot and advance the Heat's momentum at a time when it could have been killed.
We've seen what can happen when Duncan dunks. Home crowds go silent, and opposing players sag their shoulders and put their heads down. LeBron would have none of it. And he wasn't done, either.
Mike Miller grabbed the ball off LeBron's swat and began to dribble up the floor before bouncing it back to the man who made the possession possible.
Using a screen set by Birdman, LeBron went around Parker and right at Duncan, banking in a shot to tie the game.
Every millisecond of that sequence is him, representative of all he can do. He doesn't have a specialty, nor does he need to be going in one area of the game to make an impact. At any given moment, he's one basket, one block, one pass or one rebound away from going off.
Some will shrug off his fourth-quarter performance because of his topsy-turvy play through the first three quarters. Others—the more stubbornly illogical ones—will theorize it's all a part of the NBA conspiring against any team that isn't the Heat. The rest of his detractors will look to his 1-of-3 effort in overtime and see mediocrity.
The rest of us will still see greatness.
Scoring two points in overtime doesn't scream dominant. Most would have assumed he would do more after the fourth quarter he had. But remember, it's not about scoring.
LeBron had two rebounds, two assists and a steal in overtime, in five minutes. If we were to extrapolate that type of diligence over 36 minutes, he'd be the proud owner of a 14.4 rebounds, 14.4 assists and 7.2 steals per 36-minute stat line. Try to discredit that. I dare you.
Who is more deserving of winning the NBA Finals MVP award?
But you can't: None of us can. In lieu of his imperfections, LeBron has used his versatility and hard-nosed will to carry the Heat to where they are.
He hasn't shot a high percentage from the field or put up gaudy point totals in every game or even protected the ball particularly well (six turnovers in Game 6). He's done something more—risen above the verbal drivel, overpowering narratives and fluctuating stat lines, putting the Heat in a position to win another ring.
Putting the Heat in a position to continue their pursuit of a dynasty.
That's LeBron, your NBA Finals MVP.
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