Dancing With Noah

Just messing around, getting triple doubles

Someone Peed on the Sand Castle

I spent part of my Tuesday night watching the Heat against Golden State. I was at home watching frustrated as Miami came down with a case of confusion in the fourth quarter. The road trip had been going so well through three quarters: Miami was ahead 84 to 72, GSW was missing Andris Biedrins and Steph Curry and would eventually lose Kwame Brown to a shoulder injury. The Heat were warring with their big three; yep Dwyane Wade had returned and done so in an assertive alpha style.

But as I watched that fourth quarter, I quickly realized what was happening in Oakland. The real fans, full of piss and vinegar and then some, were grasping onto each Warrior 4th quarter point like it was one more symbol to stack up against the establishment and the Miami hype machine. And the fans got in sync with the players, with Monta Ellis and David Lee, Brandon Rush and Dorell Wright and of course they saved their strongest exultations for the man who thrived off them most: Nate Robinson. Together they chopped down what was once a 17-point Miami lead, made something out of nothing, they re-wrote the media’s yet-to-be filed stories and changed the course of fates.

Along the road to disgraceful defeat, I witnessed a hardening and lack of focus among the Heat players. Dwyane had been out a few games and in his absence, LeBron James was his most confidently controlled self, consumed of no doubts, just pure efficiency for all the fans—sons, daughters, grandma’s and grandpa’s, all y’all. Then big, bad Wade showed up and all of sudden the script is flipped? I didn’t watch the game’s entirety, but I watched the last quarter and overtime with the angst of a person who’s not comfortable with disruption. And there was the disruption, calmly, expeditiously, politely. Wade wants it, LeBron wants to give it and the result was a lead whittled away by scraps of lucky points.

Near the end of regulation, there were numerous loose balls, bouncing balls, missed plays, missed catches and temper tantrums (that’s you, Udonis Haslem) by both teams. Even with GSW’s mistakes, Miami was insistent on allowing them back in. Credit is due to Dorell Wright and Nate Rob who both hit huge threes, but I had a flashback ….

It was a flashback to the 2011 NBA Finals when LeBron faded into the background, too flustered, confused or uncomfortable to let his big light shine. The man wanted to be invisible. He stood at the top of the perimeter and refused to attack. He passed to Wade or Haslem or Bosh, but would then drift out beyond three-point range.

Earlier on Tuesday, I had defended LeBron with words from the heart. It’s between the ears and once he figures it out, it’s over, I argued. What’s there to figure out? He had 26pts, 11rebs, 7asts, shot well from the field and I don’t give a shit because when it mattered he reverted to passive LeBron like a fly to the light, sucking him away from his rightful role. This was different from his days in Cleveland when he’d penetrate for the shot and pass it to open shooters if/when the defense collapsed. This was LeBron removing himself from the conversation and, in my meager analysis on Tuesday night, doing it because Dwyane Wade was around.

For what it’s worth, the stats provide an objective witness. LeBron’s quarter-by-quarter line:

Quarter Min FG FGA FT FTA Rebs Asts Stls Tos BS Pts
1st

0:12:00

4

7

0

0

3

1

0

1

0

8

2nd

0:06:59

2

2

3

4

3

2

0

1

0

7

3rd

0:12:00

3

7

2

2

3

1

2

2

0

8

4th

0:06:34

0

0

1

2

0

0

0

0

0

1

I’m disappointed too.

Naturally, Golden State gritted out the win in overtime.

Where was that man with the world’s greatest game and what was he saving it for? I feel like he needs a combination of Ben Affleck’s character from Goodwill Hunting and Jamal Wallace from Finding Forrester. Between these two, there’s plenty of inspiration and realization to help a man even as complex as LeBron James figure things out. If they could crack Will Hunting’s code and get through the thick skull of a Sean Connery character, then the resolution to Bron’s mental issues are just a climactic scene away.

Aside from that rant, I’m still happy to walk out on my balcony and shout my prediction that the Miami Heat will be the 2012 NBA Champions. And that’s what makes it all the more frustrating, even in a Tuesday night road game in January, to see the game’s best extricate himself from the big moment. Miss a shot, throw the ball away, choke slam Nate Robinson … anything is better than the nothing I saw in Oakland.

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