With the 22 shots he took in last night’s victory LeBron James has now finished with at least 20 field goal attempts in each of his last 10 games. Never in the postseason (and very rarely in the regular season) have we seen James fire as many shots on such a consistent a basis (the longest 20-shot streak of his playoff career had been 8 games in 2009), and I think we can all agree that his refusal to play passively is the main reason why Miami has been able to come back from down 2-1 to Indiana and 3-2 to Boston to take home-court advantage two games into the NBA Finals. I think I just created the longest sentence in the history of this blog, but not to worry… if you weren’t able to read it, the point is simply this: LeBron James is playing like a fiend, and his hunger is on the verge of earning the Miami Heat a brand new banner.
In game two, LeBron took no fewer than four shots in any quarter. The eight he took in the first helped Miami construct a 12-point cushion, which proved to be enough to withstand an inevitable Thunder run. That may not have been the case, though, had James not connected on one of the finest shots of his nine-year career, a fading banker from the left wing that preserved a two-possession lead with a minute and 26 seconds to play in the game.
The shot came amidst something of a Miami meltdown. A Chris Bosh dunk which was slammed home about 30 seconds later should’ve locked the door on game two, but a bit of risky dribbling by Dwyane Wade resulted in a turnover and a Kevin Durant three. Once again, James had to stop the bleeding. This time, the Thunder were forced to send him to the free-throw line. One would think this would be the easy way to score two points, but with absolutely no excuse to miss on a pair of uncontested opportunities… I’d actually argue that the clinching FTs—both of which LeBron knocked down—were more pressure-packed than his memorable jump shot.
With heroics such as these LeBron James has put himself in position to feast in 2012. Never before has he put together such an extensive stretch of individual dominance—certainly not with as much at stake—and never has there been more weight on his shoulders. With Chris Bosh out of the lineup and Dwyane Wade off his game, LeBron carried his team through multiple rounds. Given the expectations of the media, the fans, and the experts, one would’ve thought LeBron had no such excuses. No matter; rather than allowing this underestimated burden to slow him down, LeBron pressed forward, playing two of the finest games of his life. Now he must stay focused through just three more victories—144 minutes worth of winning basketball—to accomplish his lifelong goal, to make fools out of legions of detractors, and to take the ultimate prize.
Stay hungry, LeBron, and you will soon have your fill.