D’Angelo: You thought LeBron was done? Think again

BOSTON _ Heat forward Shane Battier marvels at the daily scrutiny his teammate LeBron James endures in his everyday life.

James can’t make a move on or off the court that is not broken down, streamed and beamed all over the world. Battier often points out that James “is human,” and humans can only take so much.

But Battier will have a hard convincing any members of the Boston Celtics that the three-time MVP is anything but superhuman after he scored 45 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in Miami’s 98-79 victory before a stunned crowd at TD Garden Thursday.

James is solely responsible for stretching the Eastern Conference finals to a seventh game, which will be played in Miami on Saturday.

The highest praise came from the opposition, specifically Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

“I hope now you guys will stop talking about LeBron and that he doesn’t play in big games,” Rivers said. “He was pretty good tonight. Now that’s (put) to bed.”

How dominant was James?

He had one more field goal (19) then the rest of his Heat teammates while taking about half as many shots. He was 19-of-26 while his mates were 18-of-50.

“He played amazing,” said his sidekick, Dwyane Wade, who did not, by the way, play anything close to amazing with 17 points on 6-of-17 shooting. “He was locked in from the beginning of the game like I’ve never seen him before. The shots he was making was unbelievable.”

I’ve never been one who believed James “chokes” in big moments.

For every subpar playoff series he’s had (Dallas in the 2011 Finals or Boston in the 2010 second round), there are several where he has been unstoppable.

Critics who point to last season’s Finals when James had an eight point game and did not exceed 24 points in the six-game loss to Dallas, forget he carried the Heat to the Finals with a solid series against the Bulls in the conference finals.

Then there were the 2009 playoffs in which James had four 40-plus point games, including his playoff career high of 49, and never scored fewer than 25 points in 14 playoff games, and 2007 when he scored 25 in a row in Game 5 against Detroit, singlehandedly leading his team to the Finals against San Antonio.

Has James had his failures in the clutch?

Certainly.

But so too has every other superstar to ever play on the biggest stage. It’s just that, like Battier said, everything James does is not just put under a microscope, but under a telescope as big as the Hubble.

All of which means James still is not out of the woods, not even after his brilliance on Thursday. If the Heat does not win Saturday, on their home court, against a team labeled too old and too injured to have made it even this far, this season will be deemed a failure, and it should be.

But if it is, it will be unfair to put the blame solely on James.

James was asked Thursday if the relentless criticism and hate ever gets to him.

“I don’t hear it until I get around you guys, because I don’t really get involved,” he said.

But what about his friends, do they ever keep him in loop.

“My friends?” James asked. “You know how long me and my friends have been hearing things about me? We don’t let it bother us at this point. We’ve heard way too much over the years. So it’s nothing for us.”

But back to Thursday’s game, one in which James deserves nothing but praise.

James was unstoppable. After missing his first shot, James converted 12 in a row on all kinds of shots, from jumpers to floaters, from drives to a monster putback dunk off a Chris Bosh miss.

James was asked if he thought this was his greatest playoff performance. He has memorable nights of 49, 48, 47 and 45 points.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I just tried to make plays for our team throughout the whole game, as long as I was on the court I wanted to make plays, both offensively and defensively, to give ourselves a chance to win. I think I did that tonight.”

You think?

Let’s listen to some of the praise others gave when asked about James’ Game 6 gem.

“He was absolutely fearless tonight,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

“It was pretty amazing,” Battier said.

“That’s the best I’ve seen, one of the best this league has ever seen,” Bosh said.

“He was unbelievable, he was carrying us offensively,” Udonis Haslem said.

The Celtics were complimentary but not in awe like James’ teammates seemed. The talk was more about what they did not do rather than what James accomplished and how they allowed James to get into a comfort zone he never left.

“I don’t think we played him with a lot of force,” coach Doc Rivers said. “He made great shots but we can play better defense.”

James is averaging 34 points and 10.8 rebounds in the series. He is shooting 54.2 percent. But it may not be enough, not when one of the postgame questions to James was if he can do this again in Game 7.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I take every game as its own. I will continue to be aggressive. I will try to continue to play at a high level like I’ve done the whole postseason.

“I’m going to go out there and play my game and play as hard as I can. I don’t really care what the stats say. I won’t regret Game 7. Win, lose or draw, I’m going to go in with the mindset like I’ve had this whole season. And we’ll see what happens.”

We’ll see … if LeBron James carries his team to the Finals where he has another chance to shut up his detractors once and for all, or if the noise reaches another level and the haters have another field day.

Tom D’Angelo has been a sportswriter for the Palm Beach Post since 1981. He graduated from Northeastern University in Boston with a degree in journalism. In 2009 he was inducted into the Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame.

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