LeBron James and the Miami Heat enter Tuesday night's Game 2 against the Indiana Pacers down 1-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals -- and need to win to give themselves a chance to return to the NBA Finals for a fourth consecutive season.
Indiana knocked off Miami in Game 1 in a rather surprising showing, 107-96. Indiana limited Chris Bosh to just 9 points. Bosh shot just 4-of-12 from the field -- including 0-for-5 from three-point range.
By contrast, Pacers center Roy Hibbert played perhaps his best game of the playoffs to date. Hibbert scored 19 points and grabbed 9 rebounds -- and added three assists for good measure. Had the Pacers lost in the first round to the Atlanta Hawks, much of the blame would have fallen on Hibbert's shoulders -- and rightfully so. Hibbert, however, showed up for Game 1 against Miami -- and will have to show up all series long if the Pacers are going to dethrone the Heat.
Though the series is still young, and an 0-2 series deficit is not insurmountable, the Heat really do need to win Game 2 to give themselves a chance in this series. Indiana went 35-6 at home during the regular season, compared to just 21-20 on the round. Miami, by comparison, went 32-9 at home and 22-19 on the road.
No matter what, the Heat will have to win a game on the road if they are going to advance to the NBA Finals. Doing it earlier in the series -- and avoiding an 0-2 series deficit -- would do wonders for Miami's chances to win a third-consecutive NBA title.
Luckily for the Heat, they have the best player on the planet in LeBron James. LeBron is capable of winning a game -- or even a series -- all by himself. Though it's entirely unfair to ask LeBron to go on the road and completely take over a game, it's exactly what he has to do in Indiana on Tuesday night. After all, this is the same LeBron who said he wasn't going to win one, two, three, four, or five championships in Miami. It's the same LeBron that people, fairly or unfairly, hold in the same breath as Michael Jordan.
It's the same LeBron that could, one day, indeed find himself with a better career than Jordan.
Whether or not LeBron gets to that point largely depends on whether or not he can win series and games like this. There's no doubting that LeBron will go down as one of the all-time greats, but if he wants to go down as the all-time great? Then he's got to find a way to lead the Heat to a win in this series.
The series will shift to Miami for Game 3 on Saturday and Game 4 on Monday, before returning to Indiana for Game 5 next Wednesday, May 28.
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