After his put-back dunk at the 8:11 mark of the fourth quarter, LeBron failed to score, aside from the three free throws he made after being intentionally fouled when the game was all but over. LeBron had an outstanding game through three quarters and had the Heat leading by 6 points, then Bruce Wade (Batman, get it?) said "I'll take it from here, Bron Bron." Inside of 8 minutes it seemed like every time the Pacers were closing in and the Indiana crowd was going crazy it was Wade and Udonis Haslem who kept shutting the door. Haslem! He was exceptional. It's not completely out of line to say that the elbow to the face Haslem received from Lou Amundson was the game changer. For whatever reason, Haslem came back into the game with a band-aid on his eye like a man possessed. He was just drilling those Bosh-esque mid-range jumpers with hands in his face. LeBron, on the other hand, went 0-4 inside the final 8 minutes of play. When you are playing in a close game and can't score a meaningful point in the final 8 minutes, that's not a great performance. He was forced to fall back on his teammates to get the win for him.
Now something for those of you blinded by "The King's" Veil. A common argument that all these LeBron supporters have is that we're "too hard" on Bron Bron, and that if any other player put up those numbers we wouldn't be talking about his fourth quarter disappearing act. Well, LeBron likes to call himself King, so we're gonna judge him like a king. Sure, if Udonis Haslem had put up 40 then was awful down the stretch I wouldn't knock him. But he's Udonis Haslem, and we're talking about LeBron James, possibly the most physically talented player in NBA history. To live up to his name and the hype that he created for himself ("not one... not two...") he can't just put up great numbers, he has to close out games with signature performances. I'd be significantly more impressed if he went three quarters with only 12 points, then shut the door on the Pacers in the fourth with another 12. It's not about how you start, it's about how you finish, and LeBron once again came out of the gates at light speed then got stuck in the mud.
Another note for those of you who think Bron Bron is treated unfairly, just take a look at Kobe's game from Saturday night. The Mamba put up 38 points, but all anyone talked about after the game was his poor fourth quarter performance. Granted, the Lakers lost and the Heat won, but Kobe didn't get to fall back on Dwyane Wade when he couldn't get it going. The Lakers' loss was put on Kobe's back because of his performance down the stretch, so the Heat's win can't be put on LeBron's back because of his performance down the stretch.
I'm not one of those bitter Knick fans who pouted and said "waahh I hate LeBron he didn't come to my team!" I've been anti-LeBron since he was drafted, and of course I wanted him on the Knicks, I'm not an idiot, but when he joined forces with the Heatles I became mega-anti-LeBron. The fact is, the microscope that LeBron is under is completely fair, all the superstars are looked at in a similar manner. It seems like LeBron is more harshly criticized because he's ALWAYS messing up down the stretch, unlike most of the other superstars. He put up incredible numbers on Sunday, but it was no where near an all-time great performance. Sorry Magic, there's just no way I'll agree with you on that.
PS - The 6'0'' 160 lb Darren Collison ripping the ball out of LeBron's hands was priceless.