Then he popped out toward the ball, exploded to the rim and scored with his left hand, his off-shooting hand, at the buzzer, to virtually steal a game Indiana should have had.
The Pacers essentially had to win five games to win the series after that because they had done everything to take one except stop LeBron. That everyone simply chalked that up to a bad coaching decision by Frank Vogel or a bad defensive breakdown by George says more about how we’ve taken LeBron’s greatness for granted.
That a guy no one used to think of as money in the big moments could win that game by getting to the rim in the final 2.2 seconds — and it was viewed as effortless and easy — says everything about LeBron’s ability to grasp clutch moments instead of choke on them.
“It’s humorous looking back on it that that was once questioned,” Erik Spoelstra said.
The Heat coach was referring to the false notion that LeBron wasn’t a big-time pressure player.
“He was was there in moments, big moments, Game 7s before he even got here. That’s who he is. Our confidence level coming after Game 6 in large part was from him. He was picking everybody up after the game.”
Whatever the case, LeBron now gets it. When he was asked about his ability to get his teammates to maintain perspective before Game 7, he said, “It’s a message to myself, first of all. I started to put it in my head after we lost the Finals to Dallas: Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
“Go out there and just play basketball, something you know you can do. And then just kind of let the game flow.
“And if that message gets out to teammates and relaxes them, then so be it.
“You know, there’s always bigger things in life besides basketball,” he continued. “Certain situations come up during the season and the playoffs that remind you that this is just the game of basketball.”
By remembering that, by not getting caught up in silliness of the They’re-Going-To-Ask-Why-We-Can’t-Win-The-Big-One-Again-If-We-Lose hype, he overcame the only player to hold him down: LeBron James.
Now it’s the Spurs, the team that swept him and the Cavs in 2007. The chic pick is suddenly San Antonio, because the Spurs are rested and the Heat is beat up and coming off this grueling Pacers series that went the distance.
As much sense as it makes, it’s still impossible to bet against the best player in the world with home-court advantage, coming off the momentum of a Game 7 his team dominated.
LeBron’s team wins, in six games. The man is now at the height of his powers, and even he admitted going on midnight Monday on the dais that he blew by the one guy who could check him two years ago in the offseason.
“Ever since I lost the The Finals to Dallas, my mindframe changed that offseason . . . I think the zone and the comfort level I’m in right now happened because Dallas beat us.”
For previous columns by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.