As we've noted several times already, Game 2 between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics was really great, with Rajon Rondo putting in a historically fantastic performance and Dwyane Wade pulling out several fantastic shots in key moments. However, the game also gave plenty of opportunity for LeBron James haters to point to his lack of clutch heroics. With two chances to hit a game-winning shot in the last 20 seconds of regulation, LeBron missed both. Video is above, if you want to see them in action.
Despite those misses, though, it's not as if LeBron didn't do anything positive at the end of the game. While Wade took on the bulk of the scoring duties, James was instrumental in that success, setting very effective screens on numerous big possessions. Additionally, LeBron pulled out several big offensive rebounds, as well. In fact, his rebound of his own miss on the first shot in the video above was arguably one of the biggest plays of the game, giving Miami the chance to do no worse than overtime by taking the last shot of the fourth quarter. At home, and with Paul Pierce already fouled out, they had to have liked their chances in the extra period.
All this is to say that, while LeBron didn't score, he was absolutely essential to the Heat win because of his play in crunch time. Whether or not that's clutch is largely a matter of how we define the term. For instance, a role player who did those same things would be lauded for his contributions. We expect different heroics out of stars, certainly, but if another superstar is doing those same things then roles can change. Should we knock LeBron for not taking over when Wade already was accomplishing exactly that? Does it make sense to chastise LeBron because he deferred in a completely logical way?
The difference for LeBron, of course, is that he has more talent than any other player in the league, and we assume that talent of that magnitude should manifest itself in taking total control of a game. It's fine to lament that he didn't play up to Wade's level in Game 2. But there is also a middle ground between absolute failure and overwhelming success. What LeBron did on Wednesday was huge for the Heat even if it only allowed a teammate to be the primary hero. We can be disappointed that James wasn't the undisputed king, but we can also praise him for being an indispensable accomplice to Wade. There's no on/off switch for clutch — it's much more complicated than that.