When Heat superstar LeBron James drove the lane against Indiana and made a game-winning layup with no time left to give Miami a 103-102 Game 1 Eastern Conference finals victory in overtime, he sent the crowd at AmericanAirlines Arena into a frenzy and the Pacers into a stunned funk.
“He continues to amaze, I think, the game of basketball, the world of basketball,” guard Dwyane Wade said.
That’s not easy when you’re already the consensus Best Player on the Planet.
But James, who should have been the unanimous choice as MVP and should have been Defensive Player of the Year, found a way to amaze Wednesday night by recording a triple-double and making the game-winning bucket. And he did it by being normal.
“He has an All-Everything role for us, and this is the norm,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “This may be what it takes to beat this team.”
There could have been a number of heroes in Game 1 on Wednesday night. It was, after all, a spectacular game with quite a few memorable moments.
But this night, such as most nights this seasons, belonged to James. He finished with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, his ninth career playoff triple-double, and made it all look so easy. It’s a sure indication of how far he has come since winning that title last season.
James, who in his two previous seasons with Miami was constantly ripped for passing the ball in game-winning situations, wasn’t giving up the ball in this situation. No way.
“Once I got the ball I was the only option,” he said.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel helped put James at ease by not putting 7-2 shot-blocking center Roy Hibbert on the court for the game’s final play, an almost inexcusable act.
James said it didn’t make a difference.
“I really wasn’t worried if Hibbert was in the game at all, or if he was in,” he said. “I was worried about trying to get a bucket for our team.”
With 2.2 seconds left in overtime and the Heat trailing, 102-101, James came above the foul line, took the inbounds pass from forward Shane Battier and, with little hesitation, began barreling toward the rim.
“I peeked over my left shoulder and I saw Paul George was looking out of place, so I just took off,” James said.