With two quality outings, LeBron James had the perfect opportunity to silence his critics for an entire summer. All he needed was to have two decent games against the Dallas Mavericks where he either goes to the foul line 10 times, scores at least 20 points, or just has one of those games like he did against Boston or Chicago only a few days prior. He was performing these feats in his sleep for a solid month, how could he not finish off what he started.
Scoring eight points in the most important playoff game of your career doesn't help. Neither does playing without any sense of urgency or purpose for a solid week's worth of basketball at the league's greatest stage.
The Miami Heat held a 2-1 series lead before James turned into a completely different player. After so many weeks of being nearly unstoppable by either being aggressive on his drives or shooting the ball with confidence from deep, LeBron appeared to be a completely different player in his final three games of the 2010-'11 season. He was tentative, hesitant and didn't possess the look of a player that wanted to secure a title.
After nearly a year's worth of work, James had let the perfect opportunity slip through his fingers. He was just as awful in this year's Finals as he was in 2007 when his Cleveland Cavaliers got swept by the San Antonio Spurs. This time however, he had no excuse because he had teammates that he could defer to if he needed significant help. The only problem was that when they needed him most and he failed to come through.
It wasn't all bad of a postseason. However, he was still far and away the best player in this years postseason following the Heat's 4-1 series win over the Chicago Bulls. He had proven that he was capable of being clutch and that he could play at the big stage with the spot light on him. James led comeback after comeback and was making his Heat team unbeatable thanks to his play in the fourth quarter.
Rather than focusing solely on his dismal NBA Finals, we'll take a complete look at his entire postseason. Not much was expected when he came into this postseason, but so much was expected once he was finished. We took the time to analyze and grade each and every game LeBron James played in this years playoffs and you'd be surprised just how consistent he was for the first month's worth of playoff basketball.
For the Heat, they can only hope next season that James performs well at the biggest stage and not just the first three. If James wants to talk like a champion, he's going have to learn how to think and play like one when it matters most.