As the only two MVPS from the last three seasons mercilessly dueled one another in a winner-take-all battle over the last several minutes of Tuesday night’s tense and hard fought battle in the Eastern Conference finals, LeBron James showed all the world he has already reached the point where Chicago’s Derrick Rose still seeks to go.
Seven seasons after first stepping on a NBA court as an 18-year-old straight out of high school and now with a countless assortment of heartaches and disappointments serving as experience and wisdom for him, James seems poised as never before in gaining his first NBA chip (of coarse having Dwyane Wade on the wing and Chris Bosh roaming parts near about also tend to have their advantages), while the school of hard knock lessons for the 22-year-old Rose (8-of-27 shooting, seven turnovers) seem still in session.
The end result Tuesday was a 101-93 overtime win for Miami and a commanding 3-1 series lead. Again, it was James leading the way with 35 points, six rebounds and six assists. But more than all his prolific scoring, more than all his pinpoint efficiency, it was one hustle play late in the game that most symbolized James’ emerging desire.
With just under 30 seconds remaining in OT and the Heat precariously clinging to a 97-91 lead, Rose got a step on James for a quick drive from out top only to be thwarted by Wade, who rose high above the rim to swat the ball out of bounds— or so it seemed.
Having recovered enough to be back in the play by then, James dove along the left sideline to save the ball just in bounds and Udonis Haslem followed him with yet another floor-burning dive to save the possession. “You could tell that neither team wanted to lose,” said Wade. “Both teams were clawing… this was all about will.”
And when it mattered most, the Heat seemed to have a slightly greater measure of it. “It’s not over,” warned Rose, who finished with 23 points, six assists and three rebounds. “But it’s extremely hard when a 6-8 guy can easily defend you.” —Glenn Minnis