Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 2/27/12
MIAMI - The LeBron critics had been on by vacation this month. Or, considering the economy, perhaps it was an unpaid furlough. With the Miami Heat having won eight straight games, all by double digits, there certainly wasnt much to grumble about when it came to LeBron James, in the midst of an MVP-caliber season. And that continued to be the case when he had 36 points, including a record-tying six three-pointers, in the first 47-plus minutes of Sundays All-Star Game in Orlando. But then with 6 seconds left and his East team down by two, James didnt look to shoot or drive after he got the ball 30 feet from the basket. Instead, he threw a horrible crosscourt toward Heat teammate Dwyane Wade that was picked off by the Clippers Blake Griffin, and the East eventually lost 152-149. Now, LeBrons lashers are at it again. Talk is when the pressure is on, the King abdicates. Brought up was that James, just as he did in the Finals last spring, wanted no part of a pressure moment and ended up deferring. Talk was he choked. Wait a minute. I didnt know it was even possible to choke in an All-Star Game, a generally meaningless exhibition in which teams rarely care about defense. The only All-Star Game that comes to mind in which a player took heat for a last-second gaffe was in 2003, when the Easts Jermaine ONeal was called for fouling the Wests Kobe Bryant on a three-pointer with 1 second remaining remaining in overtime and the East up two. But the main reason for that outcry was ONeals foul, which allowed Bryant to hit two free throws and force a second overtime, resulted in Michael Jordan not ending up with the game-winner in his final All-Star Game. Jordan had drilled a contested baseline jumper with 4.8 seconds left to put the East up 138-136. But the West eventually would win 155-145 in double overtime. Jordan then rode into the sunset with his six rings. And Kobe, as everybody knows, is now challenging that with five while LeBron has none. That Bryant was yelling for James to shoot while he was defending him during that late possession Sunday only has added to the shots James has taken since the final buzzer. But he knows he messed up. (Bryant) was telling me to shoot it, James said after the game. I seen my teammate (Wade) open for a split second When I tried to throw it late, that's what usually happens and it results in a turnover. Definitely wish I could have that one back. Still, this is an All-Star Game, not an NBA Finals affair. And it was just about the only mistake James made in the second half Sunday, one that included him hitting nine straight shots at one point and leading the East back from a 21-point deficit. Perhaps a bigger error had been made by Wade just over a minute earlier. With the East down 148-147, James threw a perfect pass to a streaking Wade for what looked like an easy layup. But he fumbled it out of bounds, denying the East what would have been its first lead of the second half. But Wade has his ring, won with the Heat in 2006, so he doesnt receive the type of criticism James does. And until James wins that championship, it doesnt appear its going to let up. It wont matter if the Heat, currently tied with Oklahoma City at the top with a 27-7 mark, finish with the NBAs best record. It wont matter if James wins a third MVP. If this season were a DVR recording, plenty of NBA fans simply would fast forward to the Finals to see if James is there and able to finally shed his reputation of failing in the clutch. But what if Miami wins the title and its Wade starring and not James? Or what if the Heat wins it all and its Mario Chalmers making like John Paxson down the stretch to secure the win? That still might not be good enough for the critics. So welcome to the second half of the NBA season. James knows he better succeed in crunch time or get crunched. Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter@christomasson
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