Watching a supercut of LeBron James's scores in last night's parquet floorwiping of the Celtics, you're struck at how rote it seems. A cold, clinical series of possessions that resembled nothing so much as a practice drill that just happened to have five green-and-white clad obstacles on the court. Drive to the basket; if it's not there, fall off to the left; repeat as necessary until lead is insurmountable. Dominance has never been so boring.
You get the feeling it's boring for James too, sometimes. He can (and has) put up 30 and 8 in his sleep. He knows it and we've known it, even way back when he was a 16-year-old boy in a superhuman's body. But some nights it comes together, and the buckets keep falling, and we witness something without really being able to process or appreciate just what it was. LeBron made 30 points in a half look easy, and we're not impressed by easy, even though the ease is 100 times more spectacular than the points themselves.
There are actually people criticizing James today. Why doesn't he do this every game? (Because he shot 73 percent.) He disappeared in the second half. (Because Wade handled the third, and the inexorable game clock handled the fourth.) Here is a thing that Skip Bayless actually said, though hopefully does not truly believe: LeBron wasn't clutch last night, because that wasn't a pressure game. It was an elimination game in the conference finals, on the road. People are morons.
It's James that brings out the morons. You're not allowed to appreciate or critique him, because he's LeBron James. You must have an opinion and it must be an absolute. Save your shades of gray for Paul Pierce, who went 4-for-18 in a potential clincher on his home court. Jeff Van Gundy nailed it last night: "Can you imagine if LeBron had that game?" Yup. Today's First Take would violate the Geneva Conventions.
We all know that Dwyane Wade took over the Pacers series; it's common knowledge. But for those last three games, while Wade was "singlehandedly" leading a Boshless Heat to the conference finals, LeBron was putting up one less point and a whole lot more boards and assists. Even when he's the best player on his team, we decide to disappear him in big moments. What does he have to do? Score 45 every night, apparently.
Part of it is his fault. He asked to be the biggest and most polarizing player in the association, and he joined a team for whom anything less than five straight rings would be unrealized potential. But he's also a victim of the jaded "Every team makes a run, you don't have to watch a game until the last five minutes, you'll catch the highlights tomorrow" mindset that's a product of League Pass and online streaming and Twitter. LeBron doesn't get a break until he hits a buzzer-beater or wins a title, and even then the break doesn't last past the next tip-off. Forty-five points is nice, but it's not sexy and it's not immediately remarkable unless you watch it happen with only seven missed field goals.
Here's LeBron's game six legacy, in chart form: he turned the court green. He can't do that every night, but most players can't do that any night.