What just happened?
We all know pro basketball can descend into a game of mine is bigger than yours. That’s the way LeBron James plays it anyway.
Over the years we’ve marvelled at his athleticism, power, determination and single-mindedness.
When he’s wanted to score, he’s scored. When he has sought to erase an opponent’s shot, he’s crushed it. And when his Miami cohorts have anchored themselves to the perimetre – as they’re prone to do – he’s dribbled, stepped back and swished a long jumper.
This shot is truly the ying to his yang-ing dunk.
It’s tough to defend, especially when the man arcing it over you is six feet eight inches. Indeed, James’ presence is bigger than yours, or anyone else’s when it comes to basketball.
But will it be enough this time?
In the third quarter of Game 2 of the NBA Finals, James abandoned team basketball in favour of the deep ball. He tossed it up repeatedly to great effect. It was a superb stretch for the sport’s best player and kept the visiting Heat in the game.
In doing so, he showed his critics he has the killer instinct. But if you’ll allow me to play devil’s advocate for a moment, one versus five is never going to unhinge the Spurs.
San Antonio play beautiful basketball, swinging it around the key with good ideas and purpose. The Heat are the antithesis to this. They’re emotional, sometimes angry and more than a little predictable. When James says ‘jump’, his teammates look like a ballet troupe.
The reason the Heat are so good then, is because they’re athletically superior in most instances. And that’s mostly about James. Nobody can defend him. Not even the talented Kawhi Leonard, James’ physical match.
Regardless, one can’t beat five. Not all the time. Not without limited players like Chris Andersen being momentarily thrilled about rebounding, Chris Bosh doing something and then screaming like a child who’s lost his teddy or bland point guards like Mario Chalmers swinging cheap shots in the shadows of the hoop.
All those things help James get over the top.
I’m not a Spurs fan, yet I can’t help but marvel at their style, stamina, precision and humility. It’s everything a sports fan should love about basketball: the ball moving more than the man.
Instead of listening to ESPN’s Mike Breen recite mantras from the King James Sycophants Club, watch the Spurs throw the ball about. Win or lose, it’s a thing to behold. And it’s why I’m tuning in, not to see James and company win a third title.
The Heat are virtually unopposed in the Eastern Conference, so this three-peat is about as meaningful as Turtle catching the eye of a leggy blonde in Vinnie Chase’s Entourage.
I’m not disputing James’ standing as the game’s most transcendent talent. This goes without saying. His 14 points in the third period was just another reminder of why he’s going to the Hall Of Fame one day. But so is Tim Duncan and maybe a couple of the other Spurs, too.
In that same quarter, before things turned ugly in the fourth, San Antonio scored 35 to Miami’s 34, essentially nullifying the King’s assault.
That might be all you need to know as the series moves on and James tries to carry his team’s campaign, mostly by himself.