BOSTON -- LeBron James has played in 80 playoff games in 15 series over the past six years. I have attended them all and have seen both his greatest and worst moments.
Monday night was one of his best performances. James' 35 points and 14 rebounds were the centerpieces of the Heat’s 98-90 overtime win over the Celtics, which gave his team a 3-1 series lead. He also made one of the greatest playoff shots of his career late in the fourth quarter.
Here’s where I rank it with James’ memorable postseason shots:
1. May 22, 2009: The greatest clutch shot of James’ career came at the buzzer in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, a 3-pointer that he let go with less than a second left and his Cavs down two to the Magic. Down 1-0 in the series, the top-seeded Cavs were desperate at the moment and had very few options on the play. James caught and released the shot in an instant, creating one of the greatest memories of his time in Cleveland.
2. May 9, 2011: In a pressure-cooker at TD Garden, James hit a step-back 3-pointer with two minutes left to tie the score against the Celtics and ultimately force overtime. Moments after Ray Allen had hit a 3-pointer to break a tie and bring everyone in the arena to their feet, James got stuck in the corner at the end of the shot clock. He was only inches from the Celtics' bench, where everyone was standing and screaming in his ears. Paul Pierce, knowing the shot clock was about to expire and that he had help behind him, was right up on James with his hand nearly touching James’ face. The basket drained the Celtics' momentum and inspired James’ teammates.
3. May 31, 2007: The finish to what is still the greatest game of James' career and the last points of the Cavs’ double-overtime Game 5 win in Detroit. Despite already scoring 27 of the Cavs' previous 28 points, James was still able to drive around and between four Pistons to get to the rim. He finished with a scoop layup with 2.2 seconds left, giving the Cavs a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
4. May 3, 2006: With the Cavs behind in the final seconds of Game 5 in a 2-2 series with the Wizards, James changed the course of the series with his drive and game-winning basket with 0.9 seconds left. He drove the baseline past future teammate Antawn Jamison, staying in bounds by less than an inch, to get to the rim. He scored around two Wizards to give the Cavs a 3-2 series lead.
5. April 28, 2006: Playing his first road playoff game against the Wizards, James came up with a controversial basket with 5.7 seconds left in Game 3 to give the Cavs a victory with the series tied 1-1. James drove to the basket and picked up his dribble outside the lane, but took a step to get open, and made a challenging shot in traffic. For years, Wizards fans and players claimed James had traveled on the play. But he also took heavy contact on the play from Wizards forward Michael Ruffin, making the hoop while on his way down.