After Game 4 on Monday, Paul George criticized officials for giving preferential treatment to the Miami Heat. Subsequently, he was fined $25K from the NBA for his comments. In Game 5, George led all scorers with 37 points and scored 21 points in the crucial fourth quarter.
George’s performance, however, was overshadowed by, what do you know, the officials. This time, the Pacers won the foul battle, with the Heat called for eight more fouls than the Pacers, including five fouls on LeBron James in his first 13 minutes. James finished with seven points in only 24 minutes. Seven points. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict James never finishes another game in his career with under seven points unless he’s injured.
Even with James’ foul trouble and George’s scoring outburst, which was obviously helped by James sitting on the bench most of the game, the Heat had an opportunity to win the game with under ten seconds left. With Miami trailing 92-90 in the final seconds, James drove the lane, had an opportunity shoot if he wanted it, but he passed out to Chis Bosh for a corner three that missed the mark.
Many people criticized LeBron after the game for not taking the shot himself, and if you remember, that was the biggest gripe among LeBron-haters prior to him winning back-to-back championships. People would say things like “ LeBron isn’t clutch” and yadda, yadda, yadda. Well, those fine folks crawled out of their holes in the earth and started cyber-shouting about LeBron, again.
To those people, I say this: the Heat had made 15 three-pointers in the game and were shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc prior to Bosh’s miss. LeBron had a miserable offensive game and, because of his foul trouble, wasn’t as into the flow of the game as everyone else on the floor was. James is smarter than all of us, and he knows that he needs Bosh and the other role players to make plays if the Heat are going to win another championship. By passing out to Bosh, it proves once again, LeBron is always going to try to make the right basketball play and that he trusts all of his teammates to get the job done, which is the most important quality to have at this point of the season. Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now.
George was great in Game 5, no doubt about it, but his season-saving performance was also overshadowed by his buddy Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson’s antics throughout the game. With the season on the line, Stephenson resorted to his “gamesmanship,” if that’s what you want to call it, to try and get in the heads of the Heat players and sell every call throughout the game. Despite his usual “head games” of flopping all over the place and bumping into every player in his general viscinity, Stephenson took it to a whole new level in Game 5.
During a stoppage of play, the Heat huddled near their bench discussing strategy, dinner plans, who knows, and Stephenson took it upon himself to find out and walked into the Heat huddle. Stephenson also was captured blowing on LeBron’s neck as he guarded James. It was really quite weird.
If I would have told you before the game James would only play 24 minutes, score seven points, and George would score 37 points, you would have thought it would have been a blow-out win for the Pacers, right? Well, on a night where everything went their way and the best player in the world had the worst game of his career, the Pacers won by three points. A win is a win, no one is taking that away from Indiana.
The series shifts back to Miami in Game 6 in another elimination game, and James is mad… like Kanye West vs. Jimmy Kimmel mad. If you think LeBron is going to let Lance punk him again, you are sadly mistaken. I’m legitimately afraid of what he’s going to do to Indiana in Game 6. If had to make a prediction, I’m guessing it’s going to be similar to what he did to the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals with 45 points on 19-of-26 shooting. The Pacers have poked the bear one too many times this series, and they’re about to get torn apart.