Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Heat have preached team-first ever since the Big Three got together in 2010. Heading into Game 7 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals, the Heat will either win as a team, or lose as a team.
Still, much of the burden to play well will fall on the broad shoulders of Heat superstar LeBron James. The 2013 NBA MVP has been consistent as ever in the series and has been in the position of one game from elimination before just last year.
It was Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals and the Heat were dealing with injuries to Dwyane Wade and the team overall was struggling. In that game, James gave one of the most epic performances in NBA playoffs history.
Coming out with a cold as steel look in his eye, James destroyed the Boston Celtics typically tough defense for 45 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to lead the Heat to victory. The Heat went on to win Game 7 and the NBA championship.
While Miami will need a herculean performance from LeBron, this Pacers team has made sure that James will not beat them alone. But LeBron has been in this position before and so far is only 1-2 in three Game 7’s.
In 2006, LeBron had 27 points against the Pistons, but the rest of the team was just abysmal and Cleveland lost. In 2008, LeBron had 45 points and the Cavaliers were just as bad as they were in 2006 in a loss to the Celtics.
But last year, LeBron had 31 points just after his 45 point explosion in Game 6. The difference was Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh helped carry the load scoring a combined 52 points in the Game 7 closeout of the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.
But Monday night, James faces a situation few athletes ever have to face. If the Heat wins with a virtuoso performance from the MVP, it’s expected and there’s no surprise as he’s the best player in the game. If the Heat wins without a big game from LeBron, it’s a team effort and he worked to get his teammates involved.
If the Heat loses and LeBron plays well, the discussion will be centered on how this Heat team is finished and no better than the Cleveland Cavaliers teams James used to carry. If the Heat loses and James plays poorly, then the people who have hated LeBron will pounce on him being overrated, unable to do well in the spotlight, etc.
“Each and every year there are 30 teams that would love to be a part of this, to have one game to advance to the NBA Finals,” James said. “And there’s two teams that’s in this position. And it’s something that you can’t substitute, this feeling. You can’t substitute the atmosphere that we’re going to be in on Monday night for both teams. We should all cherish this moment.”
While LeBron is a one-man wrecking crew, he needs help from someone else on the Heat’s roster, whether it is Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Chris Andersen, Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, Norris Cole or any combination of those players.
“I probably will not be able to relax until the game starts,” James said. “You know, it’s an opportunity for us. And like I said, that’s what we had the best record in the league for. If we didn’t take care of business on the road at some point in the playoffs, we could always fall back on this. We hate to be in this position, but it’s an opportunity and we look forward to it on Monday.”
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