LeBron James was spectacular during the third quarter of the Heat’s Game 5 win over the Pacers, and took the game over in large part because he had no choice.
During a tight first half, Indiana’s defense stifled Miami’s role players, while James preferred to be more passive in passing up open looks in a desperate attempt to get others involved.
Once that didn’t work, it was James against the world, and as we’ve seen so many times in the past, he was able to deliver when his team needed him most in a way that few others can.
The third quarter performance was reminiscent of his days with the Cavaliers, when James had far less pure talent on his roster than he does now in Miami. And he wasn’t afraid to say as much afterward.
“Yeah, I kind of just went back to my Cleveland days at that point and just said, hey, let’s try to make more plays and be more of a scoring threat as well, and just try to figure out a way that I can ‑‑ I don’t know, just see if the guys would just follow me, and just lead them the best way I could,” James said.
“I was just in attack mode in the third quarter, look for my shot,” he added. “And luckily I was able to make some.”
There are a lot of ways to spin this, of course — there’s the possibility of people leaping to the conclusion that James is comparing Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade to the likes of Zydrunas Ilgauskus and Larry Hughes, and there are the conspiracy theorists that will look to the mere mention of Cleveland as some sign that James is seriously considering a return to the Cavaliers when he becomes an unrestricted free agent again in the summer of 2014.
But we prefer to focus on reality.
The Heat got nothing out of Wade and Bosh in Game 5, but it wasn’t due to a lack of talent or shriveling under the pressure. Both are battling injuries to some degree — Wade has seemingly lost all of his speed and lift due to an ailing knee, making him not much more than an ineffective decoy out there offensively, and Bosh is battling an ankle injury that seemed to limit him, as well.
The good news for the Heat is that LeBron is capable of turning back the clock and remembering what it takes to singlehandedly win games at the highest level. He may need to do that once more in this series to return to the Finals if he continues to get minimal contributions from his supporting cast — just like he did during those Cleveland days.