LeBron James Comes Up Clutch Once Again

by May 19, 2011

Hey, remember when LeBron couldn’t close out games? Seems like years ago that this was considered even remotely true. After his Playoff heroics this season, that’s no longer the case. From ESPN: “Erik Spoelstra issued the order to LeBron James during every timeout in the fourth quarter, even if it was truly more of a plea. ‘We cannot have you fatigued,’ the Heat coach yelled to James over the ear-rattling din at the United Center. ‘For us to have a chance to win, you cannot afford to get tired.’ Dwyane Wade’s résumé might still be deeper, but the Miami Heat’s playoff run is starting to turn into James’ clutch coming-out party. It happened twice in the Heat’s takedown of the Boston Celtics in the previous round as James delivered a couple of the most impressive pressure performances of his career. It happened again Wednesday, this time in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals in what felt like a must-win game against the Chicago Bulls. James didn’t get tired; he got stronger. And now the Heat are headed to Florida with home-court advantage after an 85-75 victory to even the series at 1. ‘Someone had to do something,’ James said. ‘And I knew the ball was going to be in my hands.’ This was not the case just a few weeks ago. After James went through some midseason trauma with the inability to convert clutch baskets in big games — he failed twice against the Bulls, as a matter of fact — the Heat quietly and clearly turned the late-game keys over to the more even-keeled Wade. It worked, too. James accepted his role as the second option, and the Heat became a more poised team in close games. This series is a long way from decided and Wade might be called back to the fore, but right now the pendulum has swung back to James as the Heat’s playmaker in the clutch. And despite failures in the past that started to dog his legacy, James is answering the bell. This time it was three stomach-twisting jumpers right into the teeth of the Bulls’ famously gritty defense with the game in the balance. Combined with several individual defensive stops that were part of a team-wide clinic, James added another chapter of fourth-quarter dominance to this postseason. He scored nine of his 29 points in the game’s final six minutes, turning a bloody stalemate into an unexpected landslide that changed the momentum of the series. ‘I work on this every day,’ James said. ‘It pays off in moments like this.'”