LeBron James was at the heart of a comeback from 18-points down for the Heat — he had 19 points in the second half and controlled a lot of the key plays. He had another great game.
But with the Heat down one with 4.5 seconds left LeBron got the ball and drove, drew two defenders then passed to Udonis Haslem for a 16-foot jumper that missed, and the Jazz beat the Heat 99-98. That ended the Heat’s nine-game winning streak.
LeBron made the right basketball play — he drew the defenders and passed to the open man. But it goes back to the same old meme — we want James to take charge and take that shot, not Haslem (who could have kicked to Wade who was wide open on the wing, but that’s another discussion). It comes back to the feeling expressed in a tweet by our own John Krolik:
When LeBron’s team is up late, he’ll take the hero J. When down, he’ll go for the drive or the pass. Does not want to miss final J.
There were other guys you could blame for this loss — if Haslem hits that jumper or if Dwyane Wade makes a free throw (or doesn’t foul Devin Harris) we are not talking about this. But they didn’t and it fell to LeBron. A guy who entered the league as a drive and dish player without a jumper who reverts to that under pressure.
We have been down this road before. LeBron will take heat for this. The same way he did for the All-Star game. But it’s the same answer — what happens here does not matter. What matters is what LeBron does in the playoffs. If he makes this pass again in the finals and the Heat lose, it is his fault. If he makes the big plays in the playoffs and the Heat get a ring he can change the narrative. Until then, it’s all just fodder for people to say LeBron isn’t ready to win.
James Harden, Rockets again leave Jazz in the dust
After turning the ball over late in the fourth quarter, James Harden meandered near halfcourt as the Jazz pushed for a fastbreak layup. But that put him in perfect position to receive a long inbound pass after Utah scored. Harden caught the ball and whipped it ahead Kenneth Faried, who dunked to give Harden a triple-double-clinching assist.
You’ll have to forgive Harden for not hustling back on defense. He did most of his heavy lifting far earlier.
By late in the first quarter, Harden created 28 points (17 scored, 11 assisted) to the Jazz’s 13 total points. The Rockets never looked back.
Houston crushed Utah 118-98 in Game 2 Wednesday to take a 2-0 series lead. It seems the Jazz – who lost Game 1 by 32 points and a 4-1 second-round series in this matchup last year – have no answer for the Rockets, particularly Harden.
Harden finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. He was a game-high +24.
Here are the best-of-seven series with the most-lopsided first two games. The 2-0-leading teams that won the series are in red. The 2-0-leading teams that lost the series are in blue. This Houston-Utah series is in silver. This Bucks-Pistons series is in cream.
Teams that outscored their opponents by at least 50 in the first two games have never lost a best-of-season series. The Rockets, +52, might have built an insurmountable advantage.
Especially the way the Jazz guard Harden. They’re trying to overplay him but wind up just giving him lanes into the paint. The talented guard is picking them apart.
Until Utah solves that, secondary matchups won’t matter. Houston is content winning through its superstar.
The Pistons fought harder. Luke Kennard moved into the starting lineup and provided a spark. Detroit defended more actively.
But the result was largely the same: A Bucks blowout.
Milwaukee routed Detroit 120-99 in Game 2 Wednesday. Following a 35-point Game 1 victory, the Bucks have outscored the Pistons by 56 points in the series. Every team to outscore its opponent by at least 50 in the first two games of a best-of-seven series has won it.
Here are the best-of-seven series with the most-lopsided first two games. The 2-0-leading teams that won the series are in green. The 2-0-leading teams that lost the series are in red. This Milwaukee-Detroit series is in cream.
The Pistons can’t stop Giannis Antetokounmpo (26 points, 12 rebounds and four assists). With Kennard (Detroit-high 19 points) starting for defensive specialist Bruce Brown, the Pistons also couldn’t contain Eric Bledsoe (27 points). Khris Middleton (24 points) provided his usual steady production.
Irving scored 37 points and dished seven assists, leading Boston to a 99-91 Game 2 win Wednesday. The Celtics now lead the first-round series 2-0. Teams that have won the first two games of a best-of-seven series at home have won the series 93% of the time.
The Pacers just can’t muster enough offense – not against this sound Boston defense. Indiana went nearly nine scoreless minutes in the fourth quarter. Even after ending that drought, the Pacers’ final five possessions: miss, miss, miss, turnover, turnover.
This is why the Celtics got Irving. His ability to create shots sets them apart in these slogging playoff games.
LeBron remains the NBA’s biggest star. He’s still an elite player (when healthy), and his name resonates with casual fans and even non-fans. Add his off-court interests – more accessible to him in Los Angeles – and his importance can’t be denied.
I’ve been impressed with his leadership skills, his sharp mind and his ability to stay grounded. People in LeBron’s position get tugged in different directions and have a lot of chances to make bad decisions. He’s kept his head, and that’s not easy.
There is so much on LeBron’s plate – production, acting, his school, even basketball. His ability to handle it all is incredible.
Having such varied interests might not lend itself to LeBron dominating on the court. But it makes him even more deserving of this list.