Every child across the world has to be singing The Lion King’s triumphant tune, “Oh I just can’t wait to be King” right now.
Some of us have witnessed greatness in His Airness, show-stopping in Magic Johnson, dominance in Wilt the Stilt and the aerodynamics of Doctor Julius Erving, but now, we are all a witness of the runaway freight train that is King James.
We all expected to see two contrasting styles trading blows. A gritty, grimy, jersey pulling series with inevitable hard fouls and explicit chatter on the court. This is exactly what we witnessed in game 1 and more.
The league’s most efficient offense vs. the league’s most efficient defense, these two bad blood teams already had the makings of a hard fought series even before tip off. After a sensational 2.2 second game winning drive to the basket, LeBron James snatched victory from the jaws of defeat as the Heat sent the Pacers packing with 1-0 series lead.
It was good to see the game was well coached and officiated, right?
Let’s take a look at a few factors in game one:
1. Roy Hibbert in or out?
Much has been made of Frank Vogel’s decision to take out allstar center and rim protector Roy Hibbert out for the final two minutes of the game. Should I point out that the 38 total minutes Hibbert and James spent on the court together, James drove to the basket only 3 times. During the 9 minutes James was on the floor without Hibbert, LeBron attacked the basket 6 times. So, should it surprise anyone that the best player on the planet eyes lit up when he noticed the 6’6″ 225lb Sam Young was the closet player to the basket guarding Chris Bosh who was near the right baseline?
I’m sure the 7’2″ Hibbert would have made a difference at the basket, don’t you think?
Here is Pacers’ coach Frank Vogel on his decision making:
That’s the dilemma they present when they have Chris Bosh at the five spot. We put a switching lineup in with the intent to switch and keep everything in front of us. We pushed up a little too much and LeBron was able to beat us off the bounce. … We expected it to go to LeBron. We expected Bosh to be a spacing option.
Other analyst and commentators also weighed in on Vogel’s decision:
Vogel should apologize to his team for sabotaging their chance to win…Enormous coaching mistake…not once but twice…
Why take Hibbert out? Why take Hibbert out? Why take Hibbert out? Why take Hibbert out? Why take Hibbert out? Why take Hibbert out?
Think about it: The previous possssion proved taking Hibbert out didn’t work and HE STILL DID IT ANYWAY.
This only makes for an exciting game 2, but the Pacers can’t be to thrilled losing in that fashion.
2. The King and his Court
Before LeBron won his first title and hit a few game-tying or game winning buckets, the knock against LeBron was he couldn’t win the big “one” and he doesn’t have the clutch gene. Well it’s safe to say none of those factors are weighing down the King. With 2.2 seconds remaining on the clock and down by one, LeBron drove furiously to the hoop blowing pass Paul George to deliver the game-winning layup. And did I forget to mention James final stat line was 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assist? James is tied for the 5th most playoff triple-doubles in NBA history.
According to ESPN,
Since LeBron came into the league in 2003-04, nobody in the NBA has made more game-tying and go-ahead shots in the final 24 seconds of playoff games than LeBron, who is 7-of-16 on those shots. His 43.8 field-goal percentage on those clutch shots ranks the best in the NBA since his rookie season among players with at least 10 attempts. Along with his buzzer-beater layup, LeBron also made a go-ahead layup with just under 11 seconds remaining in overtime.
|*2003-04: LeBron’s 1st NBA Season|
|Best FG Pct on Game-Tying/Go-Ahead FG in Playoffs|
|Final 24 Sec of 4th Qtr/OT Since 2003-04|
|*Minimum 10 FGA|
Do you remember in game 5 of the the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals against the Detroit Pistons when LeBron scored 48 pts, 9 rebs, and 7 assists as a Cavalier scoring 29 of the last 30 points for the Cavs point and all of the last 25?
If that’s not clutch, I don’t know what is.
3. The Emergence of Paul George
It’s not like the 2012-13 Most Improved Player hasn’t been doing this all season. Listed at 6’8″ and weighing in at 221lbs, George presents the perfect defensive match up to square up with LeBron James, and boy did he hold his own. George finished with f 27 points, five assists and four rebounds going 7-of-16 from the field. This is an astonishing feat alone after having the guard LeBron for a total of 47 minutes.
What really has shot George to stardom was his clutch 32-foot jumper that sent the game to overtime, but he wasn’t wasn’t done there. After a questionable foul call on Dwayne Wade, who quietly had himself a nice game with 19 points showing flashes of the old Flash, George calmly knocked down three free throws that seemingly sealed the fate of the Heat. Those free throws gave the Pacers a one point lead before LeBron delivered a layup that laid the Pacers game 1 chance to rest.
The much anticipated game 2 can’t get here fast enough.