BOSTON (CBSMiami) – It was just two years ago when Miami Heat superstar LeBron James walked off the court in Boston and removed his Cleveland Cavaliers jersey for the final time after suffering an ugly series ending loss at the hands of the Celtics.
So a game that is for all the marbles for the Miami Heat is not without a large degree of irony. James again faces the Celtics in a do-or-die game trying to stave off elimination. If the Heat go down, it will fall on James, despite his MVP season and a summer of questions will again surround the NBA’s best player.
“I know how much pain this team has given me over the years,” James said. “So I guess it’s only right that we would be going up there in an elimination game. In order for us to keep our season going, we’ve got to win in their building. So that’s what it’s about.”
That’s not exactly going to be easy for James and the Heat. Miami has averaged just 80 points per game in Boston this year while giving up around 90 to the Celtics. Plus, James’ teams have won just 6 of 25 games he’s played there over the years.
The expectation for the Heat is an NBA Championship. The team set that goal when it held a massive pep rally to introduce the Big Three of Chris Bosh, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade. Ever since last year’s meltdown against Dallas, it’s been championship or bust for the Heat.
But the bust is much closer for the Heat than the championship as Game 6 draws near.
For the Heat, and especially James, another season without a championship will open up massive questions about the team. LeBron won his third MVP this season and has averaged 30 points in the playoffs, which is six points better than he was last year.
Despite all of the criticism that James has received since he came to Miami, if the Heat lose, it will not be from a lack of effort from him. In fact, the failure would largely fall on the rest of the team who haven’t raised their game as James has during 2012.
“We have to do this together,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “He’s going to do what he’s supposed to do, and we’re going to do what we’re supposed to do. We’re going to do it together. We live and die together. You can’t just single him out. People have to stop doing that. It’s a team sport.”
Unfortunately for the Heat, the rest of the team has been largely standing still and watching James put up other-worldly numbers. Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, and Shane Battier have largely been invisible on the scoring end, especially against the Celtics.
Plus, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra has been completely overmatched by Celtics coach Doc Rivers. As Rivers made adjustments to the starting lineup and his defense; the Heat stuck to a rudimentary pick and roll game and waited for hero ball to take over.
As the Heat proved last year, hero ball can only take them so far. Basketball is a total team game and so far, the full Heat team has proven as elusive as a good-paying job in the current economy.
If the Heat win and force Game 7, then most will forget about the misery heading into Game 6. But if the Heat lose and are eliminated, there will be no joy in Mudville as the once mighty Heat will have struck out.