Lebron James is the best basketball player on the planet. This fact has never been more evident than it was on Thursday night in Boston as he led the Heat to a 98-78 win in Game 6. The Miami superstar finished the game with 45 points on 19 of 26 shooting, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists, and if it’s possible, those numbers don’t do the performance justice.
From the opening tip, it was clear that Lebron was locked in, and whether a relentless attacking dunk on a secondary break in the first 3 minutes or repeated trips to the left block to abuse whatever defender was in his path, it was established that he wasn’t being stopped. We’ll come back to this.
In non-Lebron news, Boston really struggled offensively throughout the night. Paul Pierce was the chief culprit, having shot 4-18 from the field and 0-6 from three while consistently feeling the wrath of Lebron on the other end. The only Celtic that played an above-average game was Rajon Rondo, who finished with 21 points and 10 assists, but even Rondo struggled mightily in the 2nd half, and also pressed offensively to the point where he committed 7 turnovers. After 5 games of masterful play, Kevin Garnett took a slight step back in this one as well, finishing with 12 points and 5 rebounds. The Celtics didn’t play quite as dreadfully as the final score might indicate, but Boston shot just 1 of 14 as a team from three-point distance and couldn’t produce enough offensive efficiency to hang around.
For Miami, it almost didn’t matter what anyone else did. Dwyane Wade had a miserable first half, and while he finished with 17 points, his 6 of 17 performance shouldn’t be ignored, and his continuous lack of transition defense in the last few games is pretty alarming. No one will discuss this simply because of how fantastic Lebron was, but Wade will need to be better in Game 7 for Miami to be considered the favorite. No other Heat player scratched for more than 9 points on this night, and that’s understandable, but I did like what I saw from Bosh for the most part in his 28 minutes. His conditioning and physicality seem to be an semi-normal levels, and I’d imagine he’ll be playing 30+ minutes in a game 7 scenario.
I can’t emphasize enough about how impressive Lebron James was on this night. It was everything that the media, the fans, and even those inside the industry have ever asked of him, and one of the best overall performances I’ve ever seen in the NBA. That’s not hyperbole. For him to go into that raucous atmosphere, and complete dissect one of the best defenses in the league is impressive enough, but to do it in the cold-blooded, smile-less manner that he did, while asserting his will on the block? Really scary. The 45 point output doesn’t even tell the entire story, as James had 41 points at the end of 3 quarters, and had Boston hung around, he likely would’ve gone for 50-55 points without breaking much more of a sweat. Yes, it was one game, and I have to mention that he will be killed by the national media if they don’t win Game 7 regardless of how well he plays, but on this night, we all remember why Lebron is the best in the business.
Game 7 is the best thing about sports, and we’re headed there. After this game and the fact that it was in Boston, the national consensus will likely be that Miami is a big-time favorite in Game 7, and I’d disagree with that. This series has shown that home-court isn’t as important as you’d think, and a tough, veteran-laden team like Boston combined with an often lackluster crowd like Miami will likely neutralize the home-court, and Boston is certainly capable of winning the deciding game. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe what Lebron did on Thursday night, but we would all be fooling ourselves to think that the pressure is off of him and the Heat for Game 7. This series is must-see TV and all eyes are on the city of Miami on Saturday night.
Series Tied at 3-3, Game 7 on Saturday in Miami