MIAMI — There has been talk about the changes in LeBron James all season. Last night, the Celtics [team stats] got a firsthand look at the three-time MVP playing at his highest level.
James did everything in Miami’s 93-79 demolition of the Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals at American Airlines [AMR] Arena. James had 32 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and three blocks.
The numbers weren’t out of character for a player in the conversation for the best in the world. But the way James piled up those stats looked nothing like the player whom the Celtics used to be able to contain better than most.
James was assertive from the start, outscoring the Celtics 13-11 in the first quarter. James is in an incredible rhythm lately, averaging 32.5 points during a four-game winning streak that he has spearheaded alongside Dwyane Wade.
“We just feel more comfortable out on the court, no matter who is out on the floor with us,” James said. “We try to complement one another when one guy is flowing. We try to feed off each other’s energy and always try to stay in attack mode to help our team.”
A number of James’ baskets came out of post-ups, which negates the C’s plan of forcing him into jump shots from the perimeter. He alternately scored on unguardable fadeaway jumpers and jump hooks after bulling his way into the paint, showing some of the post moves he honed last offseason.
“In a lot of my post-ups I was able to get to a lot of my shots I was comfortable with making,” James said. “So just always try to be on attack, no matter what point of the game it is. And I was able to get a couple to fall for me tonight.”
James was equally destructive on defense, a quality of the most overhyped athlete in the world that somehow tends to get overlooked. James held Paul Pierce [stats] to 12 points on 5-of-18 shooting and managed to disrupt the rest of the Celtics offense at the same time.
James did all of that with a confidence that was evident when he taunted Kevin Garnett in the game’s final minutes. Driving hard with an open path to the basket, James was fouled by Garnett.
James stood defiantly next to Garnett as the Celtics center spewed trash talk like only he can. Rather than fire back with words, James provided a much more dismissive response: He laughed in Garnett’s face.
There were fewer than four minutes left and the Heat led by 16. James already had said all he needed to say.
When it was mentioned after the game that Rajon Rondo [stats] said the Heat stars needed to hit the deck, James was equally dismissive.
“That doesn’t change anything for us,” James said. “We expect to hit the deck every single game, me and D-Wade. It’s how we feel like teams approach us. They feel like they need to put us on the floor, hard-foul us. It doesn’t change our approach. We still have to be in the attack mode no matter what happens because that’s when we’re at our best as a team.”
Right from start, LeBron James in attack mode
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