INDIANAPOLIS — As the final buzzer sounded, these Miami Heat pushed to the brink in the Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron James refused to wait a moment before beginning a determined and deliberate process of elevating his decaying Miami Heat. One by one, they walked out of the failure of Game 6, into the uncertainty of a Game 7, and James stood at mid-court clapping, cheering and cajoling his fading, failing teammates as they passed him on the way into the losing locker room.
“This is where your brotherhood gets strengthened,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Or, perhaps, this is where the team that was supposed to be basketball’s greatest modern dynasty lets a championship destiny perish for the second time in three years.
After a 91-77 loss on Saturday night, the Heat march into a Game 7 with an understanding that they’re no longer constructed for victory unless LeBron James plays out of his mind, plays out of this world. That happens – happens a lot – but this becomes a slippery slope for the Heat’s championship chances when that becomes a necessity for victory.
Three years ago, the Big Three brashly introduced themselves on a rising stage, stepping out of the smoke and into the clear. Now, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh come out of the smoke coughing and wheezing and doubled over, no longer standing shoulder to shoulder with James.
The best player in the world remains relentless in his public support and belief of his co-stars, but he didn’t indulge his close friend’s delusion of the circumstances of the Heat’s playoff demise.