Kobe Bryant has been appropriately lauded for his phenomenal game winning shots. That's as it should be. But tonight, LeBron James demonstrated against the Indiana Pacers that he has his own way of closing games.
With four minutes, seven seconds left in the game, the Pacers had closed to within one (88-87).
At that point, LeBron simply asserted his tremendous physical abilities to impact the game and put it away for Cleveland, making spectacular plays at both ends of the floor, and generating an almost unbelievable level of energy after 44 minutes of basketball.
It started with Brandon Rush driving past LeBron towards the right baseline. Like he had twice against Paul Pierce on Sunday, LeBron followed the driver and then with tremendous speed and elevation blocked the attempted layup against the backboard, sending it back to be recovered by Anderson Varejao.
Rush had been looking to give the Pacers the lead. Not this time; not in this house.
At the other end, LeBron dished to Varejao for a quick bucket. Cavs by three with 4:01 left. Next Anderson and LeBron sort of collectively stole a lob pass to Hibbert, and then at the other end Varejao threw a lob to LeBron who exploded into the air, head at rim level, and rammed in a backboard shaking reverse dunk. (For a big man, Varejao is quite good at those lob passes.)
Cavs by five with 3:34 left.
After Mo Williams nailed a technical free throw to put the Cavs up by six, LeBron took the ball in the post on the right side and wheeled into the lane to hit a beautiful fall away. Cavs by eight with 2:32 left.
Brandon Rush hit a three for the Pacers to bring it back to five, then LeBron missed a pretty bad fade away from the right corner at the other end. Rush got the ball and was pushing it up the left sideline.
However, after missing the fade away, LeBron just kept running, circled around, caught up to Rush from behind, and literally just took over Rush's dribble, circled back beneath the Pacers' basket, pushed the ball up on the other end into the teeth of the Pacers defense, and dropped a one-hand overhead pass to Jamison for an easy layup.
In that sequence, LeBron ran virtually from one end line to the other and back again, passing Pacers players in bunches in both directions, in order to get the Cavs another score.
Cavs back up by seven (97-90) with 1:42 left.
After A.J. Price made a three for the Pacers to bring it back to four, Cleveland used a timeout, then ran a play for LeBron. Mo Williams hit him on a cut coming down from the foul line towards the left baseline, and catching the pass, he elevated above the Pacers defenders, twisted towards the basket with strength, and banked it home with a soft touch.
Cavs by six (99-93) with 1:07 to go.
Ten seconds later, LeBron literally punctured the air out of the Pacers' hopes.
A.J. Price drove to the basket, and LeBron came from behind with help, leaped into the air and got elevated above the ball on Price's shot, and then hit it with what looked and sounded like a volleyball spike.
Austin Carr said LeBron had knocked the "Spalding" off the ball. The force of the block was simply breathtaking.
The final 47 seconds played out inconsequentially, Indiana adding a point on a free throw to make the final score 99-94. There would be no last second, buzzer-beating, game-winning shot, a la Kobe Bryant, because LeBron had already imposed himself on the game and closed it out between the four and one minute marks.
There is no other player in the game who could have done what LeBron did in those three minutes.
With ferocious blocked shots, steals after running the floor with lightning speed, deft assists, and unstoppable short jump shots, Lebron closed the game out authoritatively.
LeBron has his own way of closing games, and it involves a lot more than buzzer beaters (though he's certainly hit those in his time as a player). The Pacers tonight are probably feeling like they got run over by a mack truck in those last few minutes.
(And by the way, one night after he had a triple double against Detroit, LeBron finished against Indiana with 32, 9, and 9. Another night's work.)