Those who clicked on the box score, turned on ESPN or tuned in to sports radio after Game 4 probably came to the same conclusion:
LeBron James struggled.
Those who watched the game may have seen something else.
To struggle means you were trying, that there was effort involved.
As fans and lovers of the game, we just want to see effort. Not all efforts come to fruition, but anything done at 100 percent can be forgiven in failure.
Now if anyone can make basketball look easy, it's James. It's much easier to crucify someone's effort when even when they try, it looks well, effortless.
He played an all-around game. He also scored his fewest points in over four seasons. His defense, what he pointed to and prided himself on while deflecting the media's questions since Game 2, was uninspired.
What do scorers do when they're struggling? They get to the line. He made no effort to find his stroke at the charity stripe.
He had a pedestrian game (for him) in Game 3 with 17 points and nine assists while Dwyane Wade led the charge in the paint and the scoring column. Naturally, he received a lot of praise following Game 3 when he referred to the Heat as "my team" and reiterated, "I've been here before."
Did these comments rub James the wrong way? Has Wade's bid to become only the ninth player to win multiple NBA Finals MVPs created a rift between the two?
The greatest players in NBA history are remembered for what they accomplished, not for what slipped through their fingers.
So, while it may not be fair to judge James on a small sample of glassy-eyed no-shows, that's the reality one has to live with when you possess the talent and potential that he does.
He still has a chance to edit this script, to close the book on his pitfalls and begin a new chapter of his career beginning in Game 5 on Thursday.
Otherwise, Game 4 is just the latest instance of the most talented player in the game taking himself out of the picture and one step further out the conversation of the all-time greats.
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