LeBron James was the best player on the floor in the fourth quarter of Game 3 — eight points on four shots, plus he got to the line for five free throws. He steadied his team down the stretch. He and the Heat looked like the experienced team, the veterans, while the young Thunder were missing free throws, and James Harden was turning the ball over and picking up a bad foul 35 feet from the hoop while his coach yelled “don’t foul.”
It’s been like this throughout the playoffs for LeBron. He seems comfortable. He always needed that to be his best and last season he seemed taken aback by being the villain and the pressure about his legacy. But this year he’s at peace with everything.
“He’s just a total different player,” Dwyane Wade said after Game 3. “I thought up until the finals last year he was having an amazing playoffs. He had a game where he struggled and he let that get into his mind a little bit and he was thinking too much. Now he’s playing, he’s on the attack, he’s been very aggressive.
“It’s kind of like when he puts his head down and goes to the rim you have to foul him or he’s going to finish. I love when he is attacking the basket because good things happen for us.”
LeBron is just trying to keep it simple.
“I’m just trying to make plays,” LeBron said after the game Sunday. “I told you guys last year I didn’t make enough game-changing plays. I can kind of pride myself on that, I didn’t do it last year in the finals. I’m just trying to make plays.”
He was attacking — he shot just 2-of-8 outside the paint but 9-of-15 in it, plus he got to the line 8 times for free throw attempts. You get those when you attack (which is why the Heat got to the line more all night, that and OKC fouling three-point jump shooters).
With a ring, LeBron’s legacy changes, at least for some fans. It’s not that he becomes beloved by all, he’ll still be the villain, he just becomes one you have to respect a little more.
LeBron, he seems comfortable with that.