It was a night of incredible LeBron James moments which, in the end, left the Miami Heat in control of the Eastern Conference semifinals, and 1 game away from advancing to the finals. LeBron scored 49 points, in the 102-96 victory, tying his career high in the playoffs. He missed a free throw with 1.1 seconds to go, leaving him one point shy of his first 50 point game.
"That's the first time I've been disappointed in myself in a win. I hate missing a free throw," said LeBron. Then he smiled, reflecting on what he had just accomplished for his team.
Dwayne Wade had nothing but praise for his teammate. "One of the best feelings you have is watching him in that mode and taking over the offense. It puts so much pressure on the defense. He came out really aggressive and hit some unbelievable shots. Everyone else just had to pitch in," said Wade, who finished with 15 points, shot 7 for 13, with 3 assists and 4 rebounds.
Before last night, LeBron was averaging a relatively quiet 24 points in the series. Paul Pierce had asked J Kidd for the responsibility of guarding LeBron in this game. "I think I guarded him more than anybody in this gym. I know his tendencies and I just try to step up in that role and lead the way," said Pierce.
After the game Pierce stated, "We can't allow a player like that to be in the paint-we have to do a better job and bring in another man on him."
Pierce picked up 2 quick fouls in the 1st quarter which affected his defensive effort overall. He added 16 points on 6 for 11 shooting and 7 rebounds.
Kirilenko agreed that the defensive effort against LeBron must be shared among his teammates.
"It's tough to play like players like him, but it's a team effort. I think we did a pretty good job. They made a lot of layups in the paint, and LeBron was one of those guys who got those, so we need to be focused to protect the paint, and force the ball out, otherwise we're going to lose. The third game was a great example of how we concentrated. We didn't allow them to get those inside shots."
J. Kidd commented on the defensive effort on LeBron during the post- game interview. "He was going; a lot of his shots were in the paint and we tried to keep him out of the paint. It's a little bit harder when you talk about it because he's not gonna settle. Tonight he didn't settle. He put pressure on our defense. That being said, 49 points, we still had a chance to win," said Kidd.
Yes, they did. The game was close all the way and was tied 6 times, including a few times in the last 4 and a half minutes. But the Nets took some questionable shots down the stretch, panicked a bit, and got out of their offensive rhythm. Joe Johnson, their go-to-guy, missed a few shots and ended up with 18. The Nets shot only 5 for 22 from the three point line in Game 4 vs. 15 for 25 in Game 3.
With the game tied at 94, with 1:15 remaining, the Heat called time-out. "We drew up a great play with LeBron being aggressive, getting to the rim and collapsing the defense which made it a little easier for me to catch and shoot," said Chris Bosh. "Unless James has a layup, his is always unselfish and he kicked it to Rio (Chalmers) and we had a two-on-one on the weak side and it worked out."
The experience and mental toughness of the Heat ultimately prevailed.