NEW YORK – LeBron James has heard bad words from fans before. He’s LeBron James, after all.
But Thursday’s Game 3 at Madison Square Garden, when Knicks fans all around the arena were calling him an ***hole throughout the night, was somewhat of a new experience.
“It’s not the first time,” he said after the Heat practiced Friday. “It’s just the first time it’s been in unison like that.”
But though he struggled with his shot and was pretty careless with the ball through the first three quarters, James said that the hostile environment didn’t really phase him.
“Fans are going to be fans,” he said. “I understand. I don’t know. I don’t have much of a reaction to it. I’m just happy we were able to win the game.”
“I really didn’t even notice it,” Dwyane Wade added. “It’s normal. We travel around the world. We hear a lot and he goes through a lot and he deals with a lot. But at this point, just like he knows, just like anybody else knows: if LeBron James is playing in any other jersey, they would love him. But when he’s not playing with you, yeah, you’re not supposed to like him on the court.”
Still, James admitted that the MSG crowd was a small part of his motivation when he started the fourth quarter with eight straight points, after sitting the final 7:23 of the third because of foul trouble. The 8-0 run gave the Heat its first double-digit lead of the night.
“It was a little bit of everything,” the likely MVP said. “It was because of the fans, how the game was going. We felt like we were right there to break the game open.
“We felt like if we could get enough stops, we could kind of break the game open if we made a couple of shots. And that was my intention coming into the fourth. And I just fed off the crowd, fed off my teammates, and I was able to knock a few down to start the fourth. And it kind of just broke it open from there.”
After shooting 18-for-32 in the first two games of the series, James was just 9-for-21 in Game 3, with nearly as many turnovers (eight) as field goals. But he did finish with 32 points, thanks to 13 trips to the line. And that fourth-quarter run helped decide the game.
“I played well enough to help our team win,” James said. “That’s what it’s about, just trying to do other things, even when you’re not playing as well as you know you can.”