Let’s forget for a second that Lebron James was 0-8 from beyond the arc at that point. Let’s pretend we don’t remember that he had already scored 20 fourth-quarter points by repeatedly bulling his way to the hoop for easy buckets and free throws. Let’s claim amnesia that his team had all the momentum and overtime likely would have been the Cavs’ domain, even on the road. Even with all that forgetting, Lebron’s potentially game-winning three-pointer was still ill-advised.
Lebron was dribbling the ball, with a full head of steam, at two backpedaling Celtics defenders. He had a little more than six seconds to beat the two, Ray Allen and Tony Allen, and, umm, he’s Lebron James. The man — and I call him “man” very lightly; he does not seem like a mortal human — is a 6’8″, who-knows-how-many-pounds freight train incapable of being guarded in the open court. Getting to the hoop, in that situation, with six seconds left and two defenders to beat, would not be easy for anybody else. But for Lebron, it wasn’t only easy: It was a given.
That is, as long as he didn’t decide to pull up for an off-balance 27-foot three-bomb. By choosing to go for the win, when a simple deuce and the tie would have been just fine, Lebron let the Celtics off the hook. A game that could have been a devastating Celtics loss turned into a test of testicular fortitude that the Celtics — albeit in a shaky manner – passed.
The best part of King James’ ill-advised decision was that Lebron didn’t even have to do everything by himself. Antawn Jamison was streaking down the left side of the court, unmolested but by Rajon Rondo, a good five feet behind. Don’t believe me because you don’t remember? Check out the screen shot:
All Lebron had to do was float a little dump-off over the top of the Allens, and the game would have been tied. It was that easy, really. I could have made the pass myself. Put a little arc on it, a little touch, and watch Antawn Jamison go snatch it and lay it in the hoop for the tie and overtime.
But Lebron wanted to be the hero. He wanted to end things, right then and there. He wanted no part of a petty overtime period.
So he pulled up, and let loose. Nevermind that his team had all the momentum of a brakeless truck doing 90 mph on the highway. Or that he had pulled an oh-fer from the arc. Or that he can’t be stopped in transition. Or that Antawn Jamison was running naked down the left side. Damn all those things: Lebron was going to win it or lose it with one ill-advised jumper.
Lebron’s coach, Mike Brown, defended Lebron’s decision. “Guys in order to be great, have to have a lot of confidence, and you have to have confidence to take big shots, and at times take some risks. In that situation, we’re on the road. We’ve expended a lot of energy to get back in the game and take the lead.”
“Knowing we had another time out, we still had a chance to take one more crack at it if we missed,” Brown continued, “especially in transition when teams don’t necessarily have their floor balance. Fire away.”
Fire away on a 30% chance to win the game, or abuse the lack of floor balance to get an easy look that’s almost certain to go down? It seems like an easy choice to me, but what do I know? I’m no game-winnerologist.
Even so, I do know this: The shot clanked off the rim, and the Celtics escaped the Boston Garden with a win in a game that very, very easily could have gone to overtime.