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It doesn’t take an expert basketball analyst to know that wasn’t one of those good “firsts” we always hear about from the four-time MVP.
James played merely 24 minutes Thursday night, garnering five personal fouls in just his first 13 minutes. The serious cut in playing time resulted in the lowest scoring output of his playoff career—a head-scratching 7 points on 2-of-10 shooting. Meanwhile, Paul George went on a fourth quarter tear, scoring 21 of his 37 points in the final period, lifting the Pacers with huge shots every time the Heat pushed them to the brink of elimination.
In an effort to go back in time that Dr. Who, Christopher Lloyd, and millenials, who are fans of #ThrowbackThursday would be proud of, Rashard Lewis turned back the clock to his Seattle Supersonics days draining 6 of 9 three-pointers on his way to 18 points. It was a solid and altogether unimaginable contribution to the scoring of Chris Bosh (20 points) and Dwyane Wade (18 points). In the absence of the league’s best player (sorry, KD), Lewis’ undoubtedly best game in a Heat uniform kept Miami afloat for a majority of the game including a huge three that brought the Heat to within one point with just 16 seconds remaining.
Unfortunately for the reigning champions that was the nearest they would get to closing the series in five games.
Unfairly overshadowing George’s fourth quarter brilliance and perhaps even James’ foul trouble were the antics of Lance Stephenson. The Pacers’ resident troublemaker raised eyebrows with his on-court theatrics, walking into and blatantly disrupting a huddle between Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra and point guards Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole. At one point, Stephenson was caught blowing air into James’ ear in an attempt to get under his skin. “The King” brushed off Stephenson shaking his head and rolling his eyes.
After the game, James vowed not to get involved with Stephenson’s… shall we say, “unorthodox” tactics. James said, “We need one more win to get to The Finals. That’s my only concern. We put ourselves in position to win tonight… As competitors, as professionals, that’s what we are, and at the end of the day… all the extra ‘whatever’ Lance wants to do, I don’t really care about that.”
LeBron seems none too pleased with Sir Lance-Talks-A-Lot.
Regardless of Game 5’s outcome, it seems that Indiana is only prolonging the inevitable: Miami’s fourth straight trip to the NBA Finals. Despite James’ lousy (and truthfully, questionable) night, Stephenson’s unrelenting desire to be your annoying little brother, and Paul George’s superstar performance, the Pacers didn’t ever seem fully in control of the game—not even when the clock hit zero.
The series shifts back to Biscayne Bay on Friday night. While the Pacers are hopeful to force a Game 7, we have to ask one very important question.
Can we really expect The King to sit on his throne all game again?