We all know by now that the Miami Heat failed to closeout the New York Knicks on Sunday in Madison Square Garden, losing in Game 4 of their first round playoff series 89-87. The Heat still lead the series 3-1 with Game 5 to be played Wednesday night in Miami. In the final seconds of Sunday’s game, Heat guard Dwayne Wade missed a shot at the buzzer while forward LeBron James, who is widely known as the best basketball player in the world, stood in the corner and watched everything happen before his eyes. Once again, James was nowhere near the ball in the final seconds, and the questions about him running away from the crucial moments are back in full force. It makes you wonder if James is really ready to take that ever long last step and be the man in the clutch, which is ever so needed at somepoint if the Heat are going to win the NBA title.
The fact that Wade took the final shot isn’t the big issue here. I’ve been one of the main people to say that if the Heat are going to win a title, Wade has to be the guy who leads them there. He’s the one guy out of the Heat’s “Big 3” who has won an NBA title. He’s also one of the best closers in basketball. I just see something wrong with a guy who has James’ ability not even being used as an option.There’s no excuse for “King James” to be scared and want nothing to do with the big moments. While Wade is the man I feel will have to lead the Heat, James will have to find a way to break through what I would call his fear of the final seconds at some point in his quest to win his first ring. If that doesn’t happen, there will be no parade in South Beach.
It’s not like James hasn’t come through in the clutch before. We’ve seen numerous times in his career when he has taken the last shot and succeeded. We all remember the three-pointer James hit in Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals to beat the Orlando Magic while he was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. James also produced the performance in Game 5 of the 2007 East Finals against the Detroit Pistons in which he scored the Cavaliers’ final 25 points in a 109-107 double overtime victory. Even last year, James took over some fourth quarters on the way to the NBA Finals. But in that Finals series against the Dallas Mavericks, he faded away down the stretch of those games. From Game 3 on to the end of the series, the king was just a mere servant in the fourth quarter of those crucial games.
When you hear James talk after games are completed, you like the fact that he talks about the team first and how he doesn’t want to let his teammates down. While this is a good thing overall, I tend to think that’s part of the problem at the same time. The reason why is because I think James is too worried about letting his teammates down, which leads to him defering to other players in the clutch besides taking the responsibility on his own. I pretty sure the Heat team recognizes how good James is. If not, they wouldn’t have attempted to lure his talents to South Beach with multiple championships as the expectation. Therefore, the team can live or die with the result of a James buzzer-beating shot and they won’t hesitate to go back to him if he don’t come through a time or two. I don’t see D-Wade worrying about letting the Heat down. I don’t see players such as Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, or Paul Pierce worried about letting their teammates on their respective teams down. They each want the ball in their hands in the final seconds. James is a two-time NBA NVP and will probably win a third this season, but you wonder where his head is when it comes to these big moments in the playoffs.
Whatever the problem may be, James has to figure it out and it has to happen fast. I think he has to demand the ball in the clutch. I know he doesn’t want to step on any toes, but even D-Wade said this is James’ team. It’s time for “King James” to play the part. Maybe James just needs to tell everyone else to get on his back and let him carry this team to the promised land. Maybe he needs to get in the ear of head coach Erik Spoelstra and tell him to call some plays involving him instead of just for him to stand in the corner. Either way, James will have to take (and make) a final shot at least one time during the Heat’s potential run to a championship. If not, the Heat team as we we’ve seen them in the last couple of seasons won’t be the same come next season.