VIDEO: LeBron James goes off for 35 points and 10 reounds in the Heat’s Game 2 win
SAN ANTONIO — Geniuses were put on this Earth to provide greatness, not details.
Ted Williams gave better lessons to opposing pitchers than to fellow hitters. Ben Hogan never did fully define how he made the golf ball talk.
So here is LeBron James, the virtuoso of his age, in the same predicament. He spins down the lane like a funnel cloud, daring anyone to stand in his path. He pulls up to sling in jumpers that might as well have come down the clouds. He waits, calculates like that Big Blue chess-playing computer, and makes exactly the right move by not taking the shot with the game hanging in the balance.
But ask the artist to recreate the magic on a blank canvas and he shrugs.
“Just play the game, try to play the game the right way,” he said.
The air conditioning was back working on Sunday night, but now they need to call in an electrician to the AT&T Center after James shot the lights out in Miami’s 98-96 win in Game 2 of The Finals.
The first time back on the court in The Finals after he had to be helped off the floor due to extreme heat and cramps, James was cooler than the other side of a pillow in enabling Miami to even the series at 1-1.
It’s not just the 35 points and 10 rebounds and the unstoppable run of 6-for-7 shooting in the third quarter, but the aplomb and the utter confidence with which he does it.
“Look, he’s the best player in the game,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “Does that mean it’s going to be ? You don’t know. He has an incredible way of putting his fingerprints on a game in a lot of different areas.”
Those large fingerprints could be found mostly on the throat of Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs’ would-be defender, who fouled out almost helplessly in 31½ minutes.
In Leonard’s defense, what there was of it, there is virtually nothing anyone can do when the bullish, powerful James is making his outside shot. It was just a year ago in The Finals when the Spurs pretty much set up their entire strategy to do anything to keep him out of the lane and hoped that James would not catch fire from the outside.
But going back to Game 7 of last year’s Finals, when James erupted for 37 points in the clincher, he has made 21 of his last 41 (51 percent) shots from the perimeter. Which might mean that if you’re the Spurs, all you can say is: “Uh-oh.”
Of course, the NBA’s biggest stage has seen such star turns in the big spotlight before, mostly from the likes of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, whose championship jewelry collections James is trying to match. Yet in both of those cases, it usually was Jordan or Bryant always yearning to take that final bow.
So here was another game on the line, Spurs up 93-92, and there was James sucking in the defense to him and zipping a pass to Chris Bosh, standing all alone in the right corner, who nailed the decisive 3.
It was the same play and the same pass that James made at the end of Game 5 in the Eastern Conference finals at Indiana, only Bosh missed the shot and the Heat lost the game. The same pass that got him criticized when the shot missed in the semifinals against the Nets. In fact, it was almost the identical pass that he was making as far back as his Cavaliers days in Game 1 of the 2007 Eastern Conference finals at Detroit when he drove the lane and dished to Donyell Marshall, who also missed.
“He’s the most unselfish player I’ve ever played with,” Bosh said. “Especially with the talent that he has playing the game, the way he plays the game. He doesn’t, you know, try to force anything.
“Even if he is hot, he’ll still hit you if you’re wide open. And that’s what makes this team special, because your best player is will to sacrifice a shot, a good shot, for a great shot. You have to commend him for that.”
If only. James is, as he said, the easiest target in sports and has been since he showed up as a 15-year-old on the cover of Sports Illustrated as “The Chosen One.” It is the image and the life where we have seen far too much of sausage being made, that gets his guts and his character questioned because his ridiculously chiseled, super hero-looking body failed him and he had to watch from the bench for the last 3:59 of Game 1 as his teammates lost.
He spent another 72 hours as the sports world’s dartboard. He woke up Sunday morning and joined three other guests at the Heat’s resort hotel in an outdoor yoga class to loosen all of those muscles and then did everything but twist the Spurs in a lotus headstand variation. In a six-minute, third-quarter burst of six straight shots — 18, 25, 19, 26, 18 and 20 feet — James simply changed the game.
“It was that easy for me in the sense of don’t overthink it,” he said.
Don’t think twice about the criticism, the derision, the outright mockery that comes with being LeBron.
Don’t think once, even with a sizzling hand in the second half, about putting the ball and the game into a teammate’s hands.
“Not at all,” James said. “For me, when the ball is in my hands, I’m going to make the right play.”
The geniuses don’t bother with long explanations. They just do it.
VIDEO: LeBron James speaks with the media after the Heat’s Game 2 win over the Spurs