Miami Heat: Is LeBron James All on his Own in Game 7?

Now this is the definition of having to do it all on your own.

LeBron James was, once again, on an island of solitude as he attempted to do all he could to not only work his team back into the game, but to also encourage his teammates to not get to down on themselves for forcing him to carry a burden that was meant to be evenly distributed amongst three All-Stars.

There’s only one Heat player with the mentality and game of an All-Star at the moment, and there’s no need to establish who that is.

There’s only one Heat player that has been consistently capable of putting the ball in the basket this series, and has not gone down the path of settling for off-balanced 23-footers and nailing himself to the floor on rebound opportunities.

Unlike in Game 5, LeBron truly was alone in Game 6. There was no Udonis Haslem splashing wide-open baseline jumpers or Mario Chalmers setting an early tone with aggressive drives to the rim.

No, it was just LeBron. Standing alone, attempting to involve teammates who either forgot how to shoot or simply forgot how to play basketball. The fearful Game 6 look he had in his eye prior to the game washed away by a tsunami of low-percentage jumpers and bricked lay ups.

29 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists in Game 6 in a 14-point loss. Cleveland numbers, basically. He’s been putting numbers like this up all series and only on three occasions out of six games has it resulted in a win for his team.

LeBron has yet to score less than 22 points this series, has played at least 41 minutes in each game and is splitting time on defense guarding Lance Stephenson, Paul George and David West; because who else is going to do it?

LeBron paired up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to avoid the types of situations he’s in now: facing an elimination game head-on, seemingly by himself as those he once relied on have turned their backs on him and are providing next to nothing on both ends of the floor.

And guess who’ll come away as the scapegoat if Miami does fall in Game 7? I promise it won’t be the two All-Stars who combined to score 15 points on 4-of-19 shooting last night, nor will it be the sharpshooter who has seen his three-point percentage drop from 43 percent in the regular season to 26 percent in this series.

Just like in Cleveland, LeBron is asking questions of teammates who have yet to provide any sort of answer this series. Without the shooting of guys like Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers or the eccentricity of Chris Andersen, the Heat may not even be in position for a Game 7.

Hell, the series could have ended last night had Frank Vogel put in Roy Hibbert at the end of Game 1. But you could also say Miami would have won Game 2 had they shot a respectable free-throw percentage, but even that seems like it’s asking for too much at this point.

This late in the postseason and after three years of attempting to develop a well-rounded chemistry and there are still abominations like Miami’s 15-point third quarter that effectively put the game out of reach.

Naturally, the Heat had their chance courtesy of facilitation by LeBron and the arrival of Mike Miller, who had two three-pointers, on wide-open shots, last night and actually matched the total amount of shots Shane Battier has made this entire series.

A number of opportunities were missed in the fourth quarter. Ray Allen missed a wide-open corner three, as well as yet another free throw beforehand, that would have cut Indiana’s lead to six with 10:32 left in the fourth. Norris Cole then blew a wide-open look from the wing that would have cut Indiana’s lead to three with 7:26 left.

LeBron would cut the Pacer lead to four with 5:53 remaining, but Allen would leave Paul George as wide-open look as any NBA player could get that resulted in a backbreaking and momentum-killing three-pointer.

Ray finished with six points on 2-of-8 shooting, 1-of-4 from beyond the arc, and he’s not even at the top of the blame ladder because of just how putrid Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have been.

Those three combined to shoot 6-of-27 last night. They’re arguably Miami’s second, third and fourth best players, yet they’re combining to make six field-goals between them and are providing little to nothing on the defensive end.

I don’t need to get into individually analyzing the performances of Bosh and Wade this series. They’ve been horrible, especially over the past three games which has featured Bosh shooting 5-of-21 and scoring 19 points, while Wade blames the offensive system because he only has 36 points on 11-of-34 shooting.

Wade had at least been facilitating in Games 4 and 5, combining for ten assists. He had one assist in 34 minutes last night, and was not a part of the lineup that helped the Heat turn a 17-point deficit into four midway through the final frame.

But now Dwyane is asking for a larger role? When he has shot below 40 percent in three consecutive games? When he can’t get into the lane and is forcing up low-percentage, mid-range jumpers?

If I’m Erik Spoesltra, the only All-Stars getting truly involved Monday is LeBron and Chris.

Because, unlike Dwyane, Bosh took full responsibility for his disastrous performances. Because, unlike Dwyane, Bosh doesn’t have the excuse of a knee that sometimes needs to be moved back in place, in order to live a normal existence and play the game he’s being paid to play.

The reason why so many predicted Heat in 5, or even a sweep in some cases, was the Bosh factor. It was natural to assume that if Miami could beat the Pacers in six without him last year, then surely it wouldn’t take more than five games to defeat Indiana with him.

Instead, the Heat are playing like he’s still not on the floor. He has made five shots in the past three games, has yet to grab more than five rebounds in a game this series and has yet to play more than 37 minutes in a game either due to foul trouble or because of his lack of effectiveness on both sides of the court.

If LeBron’s looking for help, it’s going to be up to Bosh, the Heat’s most important player, to begin showing why the Heat are at their best when he’s playing well. In Miami’s blowout Game 3 win, the Heat set the pace right from the start because they fed Bosh on jumpers and he converted them.

It only works, however, if Bosh is living up to his lucrative contract and making the wide-open jumpers he’s being set up for. Just like in the case of Haslem, nobody is going to respect the jumper until it’s worth respecting.

It’s tough to ask more from Wade. Nobody is aware of just how injured he is and it’s not simply because he’s not being involved enough that he has only one game this postseason with at least 20 points.

Why couldn’t Wade, you know, speak up in the middle of Game 4 or 6 and say, “Hey, I’m here. Give me the ball and I won’t let you down”, rather than asking for major adjustments to be made not even two days before arguably the biggest game in the ‘Big Three’ era.

It’s misleading on his part. He’s had the look of an injured player throughout the postseason. He can’t start demanding a larger role in the offense when the Heat look inept with him leading the offense, while LeBron attempts to get a short breather on the bench.

It’s not just misleading. It’s borderline selfish. Come clean and admit that you’re ailing to the point you can’t attack the lane anymore, rather than putting on the charade that you’re still the same Dwyane Wade but you’re being held back by teammates.

It’s not like we haven’t experienced this before, however. Wade was also negatively vocal during Miami’s Game 3 blowout loss to Indiana last year and it resulted in huge performances from both Wade and James in the following Game 4.

For the Heat, it only takes average performances from Wade and Bosh, as well as the usual contributions from LeBron, to beat Indiana with ease. However, this has become less and less certain as the games progress and we continue to hold out hope that they’ll come through when it matters.

No game matters more than a Game 7. It’s time to nut up or shut up.

 

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