LeBron James showed his value to the Miami Heat on the defensive side of the court in their 101-93 overtime win over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday, stopping the man who replaced him as the league’s MVP — Derrick Rose.
James, who top-scored with 35 points for the Heat, took on the task of limiting Rose in the fourth quarter and it was his presence that hampered the Bulls main offensive threat when he missed a chance to win the game with eight seconds left.
Toward the end of a marathon game, James volunteered for the difficult job of guarding the quick and agile 22-year-old and his coach Erik Spoelstra was delighted as his team went 3-1 up in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.
“I didn’t even ask. I know he shoulders a big responsibility for us during the course of the game on both ends of the court. He had already played 40-something minutes when we made the switch and he stepped up to the challenge,” he told reporters. “That’s as tough a cover as you can have in this league. Derrick, I’ve compared him to trying to corral a tornado. He’s so explosive and clever with the ball that it takes a dream effort and great individual commitment to try to keep your chest in front of him. Even then he will find a way to get to the rim.”
The TV highlights usually show James making spectacular dunks, delivering crucial three point shots and twisting to make jump shots, but his work at the other end of the court can often be just as crucial.
The key play in the game came when Rose, with James astride in front of him, failed to make a potential match-winning shot, forced into a fade-away jump shot, with the final play of regulation.
“On the last shot — all you could do is contest,” James added. “There are not too many guys that are going to block his shot on the jump shot, but I just tried to make it hard on him, get the contest and I made him take a tough one.”
James is now a game away from the NBA finals, but he said he expected today’s Game 5 in Chicago to be tough.