Heat giving LeBron a Cleveland flashback - NBC Sports

Heat giving LeBron a Cleveland flashback
James has had to do it all for Heat in what has been challenging postseason
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The looks from LeBronÿJames to his coachÿErik Spoelstra during Sunday's game were clearly a plea for help, writes columnist Ira Winderman.
May 21, 2012, 2:05 am

It's that that's exactly what some thought he would have to do to get this Eastern Conference semifinal series back to 2-2 heading into Tuesday's Game 5 in Miami.

As it turned out, Dwyane Wade decided show up for Sunday's second half, so James didn't have to do it alone after all.

But don't kid yourself, there have been times in recent days when LeBron felt he was back in Cleveland, back in the do-it-all existence he so wanted to escape.

At times, the frustration showed, and for more than getting caught in the middle of Danny Granger's phony-tough-guy routine or Lance Stephenson's choke job.

As you sit courtside, the do-something glances to Erik Spoelstra are undeniable. Not because there is a player-coach rift, or even unease between the two, but because of what James had been surrounded with since the first half of the first game of this series, when Chris Bosh was sidelined with a lower-abdominal strain.

If it wasn't Wade jogging back on defense or Ronny Turiaf racking up fouls, it was Shane Battier and Mike Miller damaging rims with their 3-point waywardness. If it wasn't Mario Chalmers committing mindless turnovers, it was Udonis Haslem losing all faith in his mid-range game.

That's where these 2012 playoffs had stood for extended stretches for James. He was no better off than he was in Cleveland, having to do it all, and having to do it all the time.

This is not what he signed on for.

To a degree, in the absence of Bosh, an argument could have been made that there was more in support on that 2007 Cavaliers roster, when Zydrunas Ilgauskas was still making outside shots, Anderson Varejao was chasing down rebounds, and Boobie Gibson was making the 3-pointers that largely have eluded the Heat this postseason.

That's what made Sunday worth more than one victory to the Heat, even if that's all it stood for in what figures to be a competitive series through Thursday's Game 6 or Saturday's Game 7.

Had there not been 22 second-half points from Wade, a fourth-quarter revival from Haslem, lockdown defense from Battier, the doubts only would have increased for James, not only about where this series might take him, but his future, as well.

Remember, James, like Wade and Bosh, has a 2014 opt out. A championship in the interim would essentially extinguish that clause (he still would opt out, but only to firm up the contract length). But declining faith in Wade's ability to endure or Bosh's ability to persevere could create another Decision soon enough.

Enter Sunday's second half:

For the majority of their two-year association, the firm of Wade-James largely has operated as an either-or entity. One scores; one watches. During the regular season that is more than enough.

But in the playoffs, defenses swarm stars, allowing the glare of the moment to melt the others.

For the Pacers, with Wade shooting 31 percent through three games of this series, that allowed an overwhelming focus on James.

But in Sunday's second half, Wade scored 22 points, James 21. Wade took 13 shots, as did James. Wade had five assists, James four.

About the only thing more lethal than Wade to James, was James to Wade.

It was what the Heat needed. But more importantly, it was what James needed.

While the number of Wade-James pick-and-rolls remains confoundingly low, Sunday's approach actually included weak-side motion by the star not involved in the pick-and-roll action. For once, both were involved in the same play at the same time.

Considering how James is willing to defer almost to a fault, the notion that he can't succeed alongside another wing scorer is laughable. He seemingly wants that more than anything, especially when the fellow wing scorer isn't named Pavlovic.

And that's what made Sunday's 40-18-9 even richer than the numbers themselves. While James was filling the box score to absurd levels, he also was getting Wade back on level ground, creating a flow that could maximize the power of two.

The counter is that even with 70 points from James and Wade, the Heat still found themselves in a five-point game midway through the fourth quarter, with all but five of Wade's and James' points already in the books.

Still, it was a step forward. It wasn't all for one and one for everything.

Can LeBron do it all? He showed that in vivid, high definition Sunday.

But does he have to do it all? Dwyane Wade tried to answer that question during Sunday's second half.

It is a question James needs to have definitive answer to for this to be a production that not only endures through this series and these playoffs, but for long enough to get those multiple championship he vowed when this first came together.

Sunday, it meshed into a much-needed victory.

Yes, James did it all, as his line score attests.

But he didn't do it alone.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.



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