The more you review Game 6, the clearer it gets: LeBron James was not good enough.
This was most obvious when the Heat had the ball late on Sunday and LeBron, with a few nice exceptions, turned into an overly cautious ball-handler at best and an inactive spectator at worst. Miami’s offense has been a work in progress all season, with fits and starts and bouts of the stars “taking turns.” But LeBron knows by now that he has to do more than stand in the corner when Dwyane Wade runs a pick-and-roll. He showed that late in Game 5, when he cut backdoor behind a Wade pick-and-roll, received a pass at top speed, rose for a layup and ran into Tyson Chandler body on a series-altering charge.
By the second half of Game 6, it was clear that James had lost something on offense. The Heat, however, are talented enough to overcome his tentative play. But more troublesome is this: The passivity, or borderline paralysis if you prefer, extended too often to the defensive end, where urgent effort on and off the ball is the baseline requirement for being on the court in an elimination game.
Two plays stood out to me in real time. They’re even more jarring upon second viewing, even as that second viewing makes clear they were not outliers, but rather part of a larger pattern of passive defense.