LeBron James is a unique NBA superstar. Mario Chalmers is the Miami Heat’s starting point guard, but James is Miami’s floor general. Blessed with more natural ability than any player in league history, and a point guard’s basketball IQ to match, LeBron is now residing squarely in that realm where he can dominate a game – controlling tempo, dictating momentum, etc. – from a distance. Sometimes, he does this on his own accord. Other times, like in these Finals, his opponent forces him into puppet-master mold.
If you were paying any attention to James’ perceived lethargy in the first half or his stat-line, you’d flashback to 2011 and feel like Miami should be lucky not to be down 0-2.
Tip of the hat to San Antonio’s defense. Whether it was hesitation or doubt in his ability to make shots from the perimeter, James has seemed gun-shy. They’ve forced him to play hero from outside, and James didn’t attempt his first free throw in Game 2 until the third quarter. It’s a page out of their 2007 NBA Finals playbook when they clogged the lane, went under on pick-and-rolls, then dared James to shoot and brick.
As a consequence, they put his supporting cast in the driver’s seat to keep the Heat’s getaway car running. The Heat have been barely surviving with Wade nursing a mysterious knee injury and Bosh in a slump. Still, this supporting unit is obviously more talented than that 2007 Cleveland squad despite James’ bellyaching. After Game 1, James admitted he was fatigued. Chalmers’ performance gave him a breather in Game 2. James stuck himself in San Antonio’s Tiago Splitter screener role, and Chalmers transformed into Tony Parker’s point guard role.
It wasn’t quite James scoring 25 straight points against the Detroit Pistons in Game 5 of the ‘07 conference finals; but, during Miami’s 23-4 run, Chalmers or James assisted on every single basket.
On Tuesday night, however, the Heat head to the AT&T Center in San Antonio. Energy conservation is what environmentalists argue about, not NBA superstars; but stamina might be a consistent theme for the rest of these Finals.
Chalmers, Ray Allen and Mike Miller can’t continue dropping buckets and stroking from outside at this pace. Chalmers’ Tony Parker impersonation is akin to Papoose on the Summer Jam stage. He’s a one-night trending topic and then – poof, vamoose – he’s back out of the consciousness. In his last three playoff games, Chalmers is averaging a meager 8 ppg, shooting just 9-for-26 from the field. It’s still about LeBron. It’s always about LeBron. So, as Miami heads on the road for three games, James has to tap into his potential and muster one of those Herculean performances that will live on in NBA lore.
Legends lead from the front, not the back. San Antonio is invading Miami’s era and James has to defend his legacy. For one night, James let Chalmers take the stage, but he’s going to have to start knocking down the newfound jumper he talked up leading into this series, or San Antonio’s going to deebo the mic and hijack Miami’s repeat bid.