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Another NBA playoff classic

May 26, 2009

The 2009 NBA playoffs just keep getting better. And one thing is evident: LeBron James has the ability to be a closer and to lead his team past Orlando to the NBA Finals.
Sure, he may not have sealed the deal in Tuesday night’s Game 4 at Orlando, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. James had a heck of a game, he just didn’t get enough help.
Unfortunately, when he doesn’t sit out in the last 29 minutes of the game, he can’t do it all on his own. And his teammates just didn’t have what it takes to help him out.
Sure, Delonte West, Mo Williams and Daniel Gibson are good players, but Orlando’s Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu and Rafer Alston have simply outperformed them in late-game situations in the Cavaliers’ lossed.
The Cavaliers’ 10-4 run to close out regulation was spearheaded by James and his sheer desire to lead his team to a victory. And those two free throws to tie the game? Unbelievable.
James shot just 78 percent from the line this season and that’s an improvement on his career 73.8 percent clip from the stripe. Yet, with the game on the line, he hit potentially the two most crucial free throws of his career Tuesday night.
But, all the effort it took just to send the game to overtime was enough to allow the Magic to steal the momentum in the extra period.
In overtime, James did his best to counter Dwight Howard, who scored 10 of 16 points in the extra period for the Magic. James, on the other hand, had 10 of Cleveland’s 14 overtime points. But it wasn’t enough, as Howard and the Magic took advantage of several mistakes by the Cavaliers to earn the 116-114 Game 4 victory.
Even a three-pointer by James with under five seconds remaining just wasn’t enough. After Lewis hit one of two free throws, James could not hit a long three to win at the buzzer.
He had one great buzzer-beating shot in him, but not a second. James finished with 44 points, and it still just wasn’t enough.
Now, the Magic have a huge advantage going back to Cleveland. Tonight, Howard was better than James, but if only because his teammates performed better than James’ did.
Let’s hope the last game (or two or three) of this series is as exciting as the first four. And we’ll see if the Cavaliers and James can close out at home to keep their championship hopes alive.
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