Of course they do. They have two. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have shown the ability to finish out games in their brilliant careers. So why does it seem they struggle so much to do it together?
Perhaps it’s because we remember their failures more than their successes? Miami was 8-2 in games decided by less than 5 points this regular season. They were 6-12 in such games their first season together. Those numbers indicate they’ve gotten better, but still doesn’t tell the whole story. You can close out a 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 point game too. I just gave you (5 or less) to illustrate a point.
Is it a matter of being more critical of Miami because of the decision? Yes, that has to play a role.
Is it a matter of James and Wade being two of the best players in the world? Yes, absolutely. We expect the best to be better than the rest when it matters the most.
Is it a matter of them not having won a title together yet? For sure. Wade has won a title, but nobody thinks of him as an all-time great top 5, top 10, top 20 player. LeBron looks like he should be.
Is closing more than just making the last shot? Of course it is. It’s making a defensive stop. It’s coming up with a game-ending defensive rebound. It’s making your free throws down the stretch to put the game away. It’s making shots before the final shot to put your team in a position to win with a final shot. It’s making shots down the stretch of a game so your team doesn’t need a final shot. It’s making smart decisions (i.e. not turning it over, passing to the open man).
Miami has two guys that are really good. They aren’t always great at the end. Why? I am not sure, but the one thing that stands out is neither is a great jump-shooter. Final shots of game are often jump shots.
Decision making also plays a role. For LeBron, sometimes it’s his decision to pass on a tough shot, to give it to someone else. His percentages may be higher but his unwillingness to take a shot has to be pointed out. Does that help or hurt his percentage? No way of knowing for sure, but it hurts his team in most cases.
Wade is getting criticized for not passing last night to Mario Chalmers in overtime and instead taking a three-point shot himself.
Media and fans are equally excited to praise and criticize both players, because they are being graded against their contemporaries and history.
Michael Jordan didn’t always make the shot. He didn’t always pass it when he should have. The further removed from history we get though, the more it seems like he always made the right, winning play.
He did not. Nobody has. The difference is he won, and won a lot. People can be critical of Kobe too, but he has so many great playoff moments and rings, arguing against him is fruitless as well.
LeBron and Dwyane aren’t perfect. They probably should be better at closing out games. But when/if they win, we will begin to look at them differently. Happens in every sport.
If they don’t win a title? It creates quite the conversation how to rank a player so great that wasn’t good enough to close out a title.