When I spoke with my peers the day after Game 5 in Miami, many opinions were shared. Among many of the agreed upon statements was this; LeBron James would have to be close to perfect for Miami to avoid elimination in Game 6.
LeBron James may have played the closest thing to a perfect game I have ever seen. So close, that in taking an array of different types of shots for 26 attempts, he only missed seven of them. I was more in awe of what LeBron did last night than his mighty 25 straight points against Detroit in Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals. Not sure it needs much explaining, but here's why:
The totality of the moment was extraordinary. Miami was facing elimination, and one loss away from another offseason of staggering criticism for LeBron James. Cleveland was not on the verge of elimination in that Game 5 against Detroit, but he did put his team on his back and will them to the NBA Finals afterwards.
What was most impressive was LeBron's dominance throughout the game as the one thing he is not, a consistent jump shooter. At best, LeBron James has been a streaky shooter, but by no means has that been his primary option of attack in terms of scoring the basketball. This was not the case last night. Not only was James attacking the rim in usual relentless fashion, he picked his spots on the floor and proceeded to make deafening jump shot after jump shot. Simply put, LeBron James became virtually unstoppable. I mean we're talking about turn-around fade away jump shots, face-up jumpers, floaters, and a couple of three pointers. When LeBron James is making those shots, only God can stop him.
Looking over at Boston, I'm not sure they could play any worse than they did in Game 6. The only true rhythm exhibited in last night's game came from #6 on the opposing team. In what Doc Rivers often calls a "make or miss league", the Celtics were certainly in the missing column. They shot a despicable 1-14 from three point range, including just 6-14 from their leader Kevin Garnett, six first half turnovers from Rondo, and only 15 bench points. Also worth noting, not one Celtic player who played more than 15 minutes finished positive in the +/- category, which speaks to their glaring lack of production.
Perhaps the most disheartening performance for the Celtics was Paul Pierce. Although he picked up his third foul keeping him out of play for most of the first half, Pierce was never able to develop any sort of rhythm, finishing just 4-18 from the floor and nine points.
Game 7's are unlike any other happening in professional sports. When it comes down to just one game, the best moments are when certain individuals rise to the occasion. For Boston, as I said, I'm not sure they can play much worse than they did in Game 6. They already won Game 5 in Miami, so any doubts of their ability to win on the road are tarnished. The Boston Celtics need better efforts from every player on their roster, but unfortunately that might mean they simply just need to make shots. ESPN's Skip Bayless referred to Boston as an older version of the Oklahoma City Thunder, in that they have become a jump shooting team. The only difference: OKC has three young guys that attack the rim relentlessly off the dribble. Still, I agree with Bayless' comparison because Boston's only true threat going to the basket is Rondo, usually looking for Allen, Pierce, Bass, and Garnett for open threes or mid range jump shots. Boston might need someone to get hot, like Garnett's 26 points in Game 5, but to win another game in Miami they will unquestionably need contributions from their entire roster.
For Miami, I don't expect LeBron James to have another game like last night, I just don't. I expect him to have a big Game 7, but I think LeBron will desperately need his teammates' help to pull this one off, most notably Dwayne Wade. Boston will come with everything they've got, and no one is better in back-to-the-wall situations than Doc Rivers and Co. LeBron showed some great resilience of his own in Game 6, but even that wouldn't be enough to fend off the old dogs in a Game 7. I think if Dwayne Wade has a big game, Miami advances to the NBA Finals. Plain and simple. Otherwise, Miami's fate rests on the shoulders of "The Chosen One" alone, as we've seen so many times before. Nevertheless, I think Wade comes ready to put Boston away like he did against Indiana (41 points in close out Game 6). I'm sticking with my original pick. Miami advances to take on OKC. 90-85.