So here we stand again, at the intersection of awesome and clutch, a familiar spot for LeBron James.
The numbers speak volumes: 34 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, a block and a steal in 48 minutes. On a per-minutes basis, James essentially was Rajon Rondo on Wednesday night.
And yet, with a chance to win Game 2 of this best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals series in regulation, James first was off with a runner with 20.9 seconds to play in the fourth quarter and then, after his own offensive rebound with 19.5 seconds left in the fourth, off with a jumper at the regulation buzzer while being defended by Rondo.
Yes, he took the shots outsiders have insisted he must.
But he missed. Twice. The second time passively.
Eventually the Boston Celtics were put to rest in overtime, but not for the lack of trying by Rondo.
And the narrative?
Well, that depends which platform of ESPN is of your choosing.
Yet if you opt for the notion that James again wilted, then also consider what happened otherwise in the final 4:02 of regulation on James’ uneven 18-of-24 night from the foul line.
Fouled with 4:02 to play in the fourth quarter and the Miami Heat down 92-87, James drained both free throws.
Fouled with 2:55 in the fourth and the Heat down 94-89, James again made both attempts.
Fouled with 1:52 to play in the fourth and the score tied 94-94, James again converted both foul shots.
The counter would be that James didn’t score for the balance of regulation, missed a pair of free throws at the start of overtime, did not score again until 1:50 remained in overtime.
And yet, with the Heat up 112-108 with 11.6 seconds to go in the extra period, there was James back at the free-throw line.
And the Celtics were dead.
No, the end of regulation was not the LeBron script, the once-and-for-all-end-the-debate script.
And it was teammate Dwyane Wade who put it away in overtime.
But to dismiss those four perfect trips to the foul line would merely be a case or trying to make a case of who James isn’t.
Who he was on Wednesday night was the second-best player on the court when the best player was having a game for the ages.
And even then, James wasn’t that far off Rondo’s numbers.