Inevitably, the story is about LeBron James. It always is. Forever.
Even if you want to make it about the emergence of Paul George, the jump shooting of Udonis Haslem (when it shows up), the decline of Dwyane Wade or the energy of Chris Andersen. The Eastern Conference Finals revolves around LeBron James.
This Heat team, this title defense, are his statement and his legacy. He is building it all, leaving naysayers behind and trying to forge himself among the league's greats all while they case an ominous shadow over him.
At times, no one is content with what he has done, comparing him to those greats that came before him. At time, everyone is in awe of him because there are so few players in the league's history that can do what he can do. James is the one player that can remind us of Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson in one breath and Michael Jordan in another.
James' third quarter will go in his personal ledger of incredible Conference Finals performances as the Heat took a 3-2 series lead with a 90-79 win over the Pacers at AmericanAirlines Arena on Thursday. Yes, he needs more Finals performances to trump those but that is an argument for another time.
With the Pacers dominating the inside (again) and looking like they could score the upset again, James fired his team up. There was cursing involved as James gathered his teammates before the third quarter. Then he went off.
James scored 16 of his 30 points in the third quarter, outscoring the Pacers by three points. The effort inspired Miami and Indiana fell apart. The Pacers were simply powerless to prevent the James train as so many have been before him.
LeBron got his help from Udonis Haslem scoring 16 points. And eventually the Heat battled back to control the glass, preventing the second chance points that have long helped the Pacers stay in this series and take advantage of their size.
Miami put in a great second half after skating by in the first. This was a game where James led by his words and his actions. Miami came out fired up in the second half and played with more passion and energy. That matters so much with two teams so evenly matched up.
And when teams are even, the team with the best player wins.
No need to guess who that is.
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