We have seen LeBron’s heroics and unparalleled skill so much in his three seasons here.
But sometimes he still wows you.
“An absolute desperation and will,” Spoelstra described James’ late game-changing burst. “To do it on both ends, covering Tony Parker … he gave us that life when we were down by 10.”
Said Spurs star Tim Duncan, of James: “He found a way to put his team over the top. There’s no other way to put it.”
It wasn’t just LeBron, who finished with 32 points and a triple-double, adding 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Ray Allen hit a tying 3-point shot with 5.2 seconds left (“Something I’ll remember for a long time,” he said). Mario Chalmers was huge early, and scored 20. Chris Bosh had only 10 points but had 11 rebounds and two huge late blocked shots.
All of the pronouncements enveloping this game were grave or grandiose. It was called judgment day, a defining moment. It was couched as dynasty-or-bust. It was seen as the night that would shape LeBron’s legacy and steer the future of the Big 3 in Miami.
It lived up to the hype as surely one of the great Finals games, elimination games, in league history.
And all of it swung right in the end for Miami, offering a profound relief that will be short-lived, that will last only until the next game.
The Spurs’ Manu Ginobili described his team as “devastated” by seeing its championship slip away late. That’s understandable. It was 1978 when a visiting team last won a Game 7 in the NBA Finals.
Miami is now 7-0 after losses in this postseason and has won 13 in a row overall after losing.
This is a team that responds well to adversity.
It did again Tuesday when doing so was an absolute must, and when fatigue was fighting every player on the floor.
“We were not only taking the tank all the way down to ‘E,’” said LeBron, “but also using the reserve tank.”
It was simply one of the greatest games and greatest triumphs we have ever seen in local sports.
Now all they have to do is do it again.
There was an interesting, telling little give and take by Wade and James in the interview room after the Game 5 loss in San Antonio. They’d been doing interviews separately lately but happened to be at each other’s elbow that night.
It was mentioned how Miami lost a Game 6 on its home floor to fall short to Dallas in the 2011 NBA Finals, the first year of the Big 3. Heat players endured the indignity of the Mavericks celebrating on their own court that year.
“We’re a better team now,” Wade had said, with certainty.
“We’re going to see,” added James, with a small smile.
They proved Tuesday night they ARE a better team than they were.
Now all they have to do is prove it one more time, on Thursday night.
When it matters even more.
When it is ALL that matters.