LeBron answers his crunch-time critics, and the Dance begins

By: 03.18.09  •  49 Comments

LeBron James

We’re just asking the question: Exactly how many big-time threes and clutch free throws would LeBron have to hit before he’d lose the reputation for not being a solid shooter who performs in crunch time? Hosting Orlando last night in a game that had “playoff atmosphere” written all over it, ‘Bron calmly drilled a deep three to give Cleveland the lead with 47 seconds left, then hit two free throws with under 10 seconds remaining to ice the win. For the game LBJ went 4-7 beyond the arc and 9-10 at the stripe. More clutch? He scored 15 in the fourth quarter, while the Magic as a team had 18 … Of course those weren’t the only highlights from LeBron’s 43-point, 8-rebound, 12-dime, 4-steal effort. He threw in the customary head-at-the-rim breakaway dunk, and for one of the underrated sickest plays of the night, lost Rafer Alston with a behind-the-back dribble, then jumped and hung in the air for almost two full seconds floating out of bounds before hitting Anderson Varejao for a dunk. It’s the same thing T.J. Ford does 10 times a game, only ‘Bron made the right play and seemed to have an idea what he was doing when he left his feet … In between LeBron’s late three and the free throws, Orlando lost its chance to tie or take the lead when Dwight Howard (13 pts, 15 rebs, 6 blks) got called for a fishy three-seconds violation. It’s not that Dwight wasn’t camped out in the lane, but seriously, who makes that call at that juncture in the game? And against a player of that caliber? Just ask Chris Bosh: We’ve all seen Shaq planted in the paint for up to eight seconds at a time with no one blowing a whistle. Here’s Stan Van Gundy with his thoughts on the call: “That’s part of the reason they’re 30-1 at home. They’re a very good team, and when you get calls like that (crap), you’re in pretty good shape.” … Between that call and the fact that Rashard Lewis shot an uncharacteristic 0-for-8 beyond the arc, the Magic don’t have to hang their head after that loss. It’s not like they totally got outplayed. And it’s pretty clear that if these teams meet up in the postseason, it’s gonna be a battle … For St. Patrick’s Day, ‘Bron was rocking green-and-white Nikes with gold laces and “Irish” on the back for St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High School … Andre Iguodala
We’ve seen the Lakers bench lose big second-half leads before, but is it time for concern when — this late in the season — L.A. is having fourth-quarter collapses while Kobe and Pau Gasol are on the court? Up by 14 in the fourth against the Sixers (at home), a few costly turnovers and some lax defense allowed Philly to go on a 20-2 run and take the lead. As Gary Payton said on NBA TV, the Lakers just got complacive … Kobe (11 pts 5-15 FG) actually gave L.A. the lead back with a long two-pointer right in Andre Iguodala‘s eye with six seconds left, but Iguodala (25 pts) came right back and hit a buzzer-beating game-winning three right in Trevor Ariza‘s eye. Not that Ariza played bad defense, but if you know Iguodala is taking that shot, why wouldn’t you put Kobe on him? … You have to give Philly credit for getting it done with guys who are borderline not even NBA players. During that big fourth-quarter run, Donyell Marshall was knocking down threes, Reggie Evans got some buckets, and even Royal Ivey was making plays. At least two of those guys wouldn’t even play if they were on the Lakers, Spurs or Celtics … Actually, with the way things are going for Boston, maybe Donyell and Reggie could get some run with them. Already missing KG, Big Baby and The Worst Player in the NBA, the Celts frontcourt took another hit when Leon Powe suffered a knee bruise in the first quarter of last night’s game in Chicago. Exploiting Boston’s extra-thin defense thereafter, the Bulls dropped 127 points in a win, 38 of them coming from John Salmons. Tied up late in the fourth, Salmons drove baseline past Ray Allen and caught a reverse dunk with nobody even trying to challenge him at the rim … Other big stat lines from Tuesday: Al Horford put up 23 points, 12 boards and six assists in a win over Sacramento, while Kevin Martin scored 31 in the loss; Kevin Love had 17 points and 19 boards in a loss to San Antonio; Dirk Nowitzki dropped 30 points on short-handed Detroit in a win; and Monta Ellis scored 29 in a win over the Clippers … While the NCAA Tournament officially got started with Morehead State beating Alabama State in the play-in game, Tuesday was also a big opening night for the NIT, with three of the most exciting players in the country in action: Stephen Curry scored 32 on South Carolina, Jodie Meeks had a modest 19 against UNLV, and Patty Mills gave Washington State 27 … Nice to see Kentucky is taking the NIT so seriously that they played their game in what looked like the UK volleyball gym. Apparently there was a “scheduling conflict” with Rupp Arena, but we actually went to the Rupp Arena website, and couldn’t find anything scheduled for yesterday … We’re out like Kentucky’s wounded pride …

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