“It’s about damn time,” said LeBron James, when he finally won the NBA championship ring in 2012 on his seventh attempt. It was the greatest achievement of his storied NBA career.
Every prior attempt to reach 'the promised land' of the NBA title was equally painful for the man who has now ascended, undisputedly, to the title of world’s best basketball player. But if this one slips away, it’ll hurt worse than any of the others.
He faces an Everest of a challenge. He has to win two games in sequence against the surgical precision of the San Antonio Spurs. LeBron’s Miami Heat, dubbed ‘The Heatles’ after the joining of superstars James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, are down three games to two in a best of seven series. One more loss and it’s over.
“We’re gonna find out how far we’ve come,” said James after the nightmare of game five.
In that game, a pivotal matchup in a best-of-seven series tied at two a piece, James’ Miami Heat faced a near-unbeatable foe.
The framework of the well-oiled machine that defeated James’ young Cleveland Cavaliers in the finals in 2007 is, bewilderingly, still there in San Antonio. Point Guard Tony Parker, all-time great big man Tim Duncan, and unpredictable swingman Manu Ginobili, when they all show up, are a basketball nightmare.
The word ‘spry’ is used again and again in reference to 6’11 post presence Duncan. NBA reporters can be forgiven for their hackish use of the word as ‘the big fundamental’ is defying time.
At 37, he is on the cusp of his fifth NBA championship 14 years after he first won it. In the opening minutes of game five he pinned down Chris Bosh in the low block, hauled in a bullet pass from Ginobili and mashed it down on the head of Heat Point Guard Mario Chalmers. Even his own home fans were aghast.
Ginobili came to life in that game after a slow start in the series. And Parker, a point guard whose authority is such that coach Gregg Popovich is happy to hand timeout huddles over to the playmaker, has made a case that he is the best attacking guard in the game.
But The Heat also face something you just can’t account for – a three-point shooter who just won’t miss.
Danny Green used to sit on the bench and watch while LeBron launched his superstar career in Cleveland. He was mostly known as the guy who did an elaborate set of high fives with the star before sitting on the bench and watching.
Now he’s a dagger in his Cleveland buddy’s side. He’s become the best three-point shooter in NBA finals history, notching up an amazing 25 triples across the five finals games so far. When the ball reaches his hands 25-feet from the basket, there is no thought, there is no conscience. We all know where it’s going.
Oh, and who was closing out on him when he tied the record? Previous finals three-point record holder Ray Allen. Green’s shooting has been cruel.
“This game is a big boy game,” said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich as he fired his ageing unit to the win in a historic game five. And the almost error-free machine he has built is presenting Miami with their toughest challenge yet.
But the Heat can also be unbeatable. In their game four win The Heat’s “big three” of James, Wade and Bosh combined for 85 points, meaning that only a smattering of baskets from their clutch of three-point gunners was needed. Even with Danny Green zeroed in from range, San Antonio couldn’t stand against that.
James is playing at a level of basketball arguably not seen since Michael Jordan. But The San Antonio Spurs have built a squad that he just can’t beat by himself. His teammates have to step up.
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