Found May 24, 2012 on Fox Sports:
While America waits for LeBron James to close out the Pacers with a "clutch" last-second shot, Larry Bird fears James finished the Pacers in the first three quarters of Game 4. That is not a typographical error. Yes, Bird, the Pacers' president, called out his team for being "soft" in the aftermath of the Heat's 32-point, flagrant-foul-stamped bullying of Indiana in Game 5. But Bird knows the retaliatory cheap shots delivered by Udonis Haslem and Dexter Pittman didn't punk the Pacers Tuesday night. Bird fears James stole their heart 48 hours earlier with the kind of relentless, virtuosic performance that is the true hallmark of an NBA all-time great. A superstar, a legitimate legend, can close out/irreversibly demoralize an opponent at any time during an NBA game and/or playoff series. The skills are not mutually exclusive, but there is a significant difference between being a guy who loves to take the big, last-second shot (Robert Horry, Reggie Miller, Chauncey Billups) and a guy who can mentally cripple an opponent (Bird, Magic, Michael, Kareem, Russell, Shaq). Bird knows this intimately. His specialty was demoralization and imposing his will. He frustrated opponents until the little voice inside their heads convinced them that losing was inevitable, resistance was futile. Re-watch the first quarter of Game 5. The Pacers were still dealing with the impact of the 40-point, 18-rebound, nine-assist bomb James dropped in Game 4. James, his 250-pound sculpted frame, his seemingly limitless arsenal of weapons, his Lance Armstrong-like cardiovascular strength, his ability to control the pace and his rejuvenated sidekick, Dwyane Wade, intimidated the Pacers. Danny Granger took the court convinced he needed to have an amazing night from beyond the three-point arc for the Pacers to have any chance at winning Game 5. The three 3-pointers he nailed in the first quarter were bad-tone fool's gold that masked the fact Roy Hibbert wasn't getting the appropriate looks inside. David West opened the game on autopilot. He had no energy. Shane Battier embarrassed West, pestering him into several awful low-block misses. Paul George was petrified. George Hill was lost. The Pacers hung around for most of the first half, and then James and Wade foreshadowed what was to come with a 47-second, one-free throw, two-bucket blitz as the half closed. The Pacers were done. It had absolutely nothing to do with Haslem's WWE-style takedown of Tyler Hansbrough. Pittman's bush-league assault on Lance Stephenson was even more irrelevant. James imposed his will in Game 4. Bird is simply trying to snap his team out of its demoralized mindset for tonight's Game 6. No matter how many times Granger talks himself into woofing at James, it might be impossible for the Pacers to mentally recover. James is in beast mode. He's Denzel Washington in "Training Day": "King Kong ain't got nothing on me." This is why I find the whole debate about "closing" laughable. I'd rather have Godzilla than a "closer." If used effectively, Godzilla makes the final minute irrelevant. Godzilla makes an ego-driven, decide-the-game referee irrelevant. Closing requires luck. The refs didn't whistle Jordan for pushing off against Byron Russell. Just the other day, a ref stole a big shot from Boston by calling Kevin Garnett for an illegal screen. Give me Godzilla! Because of his poor free-throw shooting, Shaq almost always played hot potato at the end of games. But, sweet Jesus, Shaq spit so much fire and caused so much destruction the first 46 minutes that it was relatively easy for his supporting cast to close out games. Magic had the last-second baby hook against the Celtics, but Magic won five titles because opponents got sick of playing at his nonstop pace. Do you know how frustrating it is to break your back for 24 seconds to get a good shot and have Magic hit Worthy with a dime at the rim eight seconds later? Kareem's skyhook? Absolutely demoralizing. Hakeem's dream shake? Ask David Robinson about the 1995 Western Conference Finals. Moses Malone's butt? Was more revered in NBA locker rooms than Kim Kardashian's is now. The chip on Isiah's shoulder? It created the Bad Boy persona that drove the Pistons. Jordan won six titles with his first step, unmatched athleticism and fanatical drive. Bird won three with his flawless release, uncanny vision and bravado. Russell was just smarter than everyone else. Kobe has pulled off a solid Jordan impersonation. The truly great ones inspire fear for four quarters. Are the Pacers afraid of LeBron James? Larry Bird thinks so.

Can the Miami Heat be beat?

In the NBA, three of its final four teams are now set: Oklahoma City, San Antonio, and Miami. And while San Antonio and Oklahoma City looks like it’ll be a fantastic series, the eyes of the basketball world follow the Miami Heat. After losing Chris Bosh, the Heat then went down 2-1 in their series with the Indiana Pacers. From the second half of Game 4 where the Heat entered down...

LeBron James Takes More Heat

LeBron gets more crap from people than any other athlete, ever. Some of the guff is deserved. However, sometimes it goes too far. James, and the Heat, are now without Chris Bosh. Yet, some people don’t want to hear it. “James picked his team,” they said. Yeah, well, a key member of said team is injured. I can’t act like this didn’t happen. Some say LeBron’s not a winner...

Larry Bird called the Pacers “soft” after their Game 5 loss

If you’re a Pacers fan, last night was not a good night. The Heat just completely dominated the Pacers from the opening tip. The Pacers’ performance was so bad that Larry Bird, who rarely says anything good or bad publicly about the team, ripped their performance to the Indianapolis Star’s, Mike Wells. “I can’t believe my team went soft,” Bird said on the phone. “S...

Report: Bird calls Pacers 'soft'

The worst playoff loss in Indiana Pacers franchise history had team president Larry Bird calling out his players, according to an Indianapolis Star report. "I can't believe my team went soft. S-O-F-T," Bird told the paper. "I'm disappointed. I never thought it would happen." Asked to elaborate, Bird said, "That's all I have to say." ...

Miami Heat advance despite LeBron James’s battle with an inflatable flamingo

James, Wade in sync in Heat's rout of Pacers

MIAMI (AP) -- LeBron James scored 30 points, Dwyane Wade added 28, and the Miami Heat moved a win away from another trip to the Eastern Conference finals with a 115-83 victory over the suddenly hurting Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night. James added 10 rebounds and eight assists. Shane Battier scored 13 and Mario Chalmers had eight points and 11 rebounds. The Heat lead the best-of...

Pacers respond to Bird's 'soft' remark

Larry Bird called the Indiana Pacers soft. Players agreed with their team president.

Larry Bird can spell "Soft", S-O-F-T

Take a chill pill on the vocabulary, Larry Legend. If David Stern hears that type of foul language about a small town NBA team one more time, expect to hear announcers from the league start calling your team the Pacers of Seattle or Pittsburgh. Isn't Tyler Hansbrough the only white guy on the team? No way in hell can a team that goes 8 black men deep playing basketball be...

Dwyane Wade, LeBron James too much for Indiana Pacers

In the end — after so many twists and turns that changed a lot of opinions — the result of this Eastern Conference Semifinal series was what many expected. The Miami Heat closed out the Indiana Pacers 105-93 Thursday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to win the series in six games and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight year. The Pacers opened eyes during...

Dwyane Wade, LeBron James were too good for Pacers, but they have to keep it up or Heat won’t win title

The basketball world went into a frenzy after the Heat fell behind 2-1 in their Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Pacers last week. Dwyane Wade shoot poorly the first three games of the series, and he was particularly crappy going 2-13 in a Game 3 loss in Indiana that left everyone panicking. All of a sudden, we were hearing people call Chris Bosh the Heat’s MVP...

They Can Stand The Heat

It was just last Thursday that the Miami Heat were written off for dead.  LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were the least-clutch superstars ever.  The sky was falling.  Less than a week later, things done changed.LeBron has shown why he is the best player in the world, averaging 35 points, 14 rebounds, 8.5 assists over the past two games.  Wade has shown why he is the best "...

Dynamic duo leads Miami back to Eastern finals

With another season on the brink, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James took their two-man game to new heights. Just like that, the Miami Heat and a Big Three-Minus-One are headed back to the Eastern Conference finals. Wade scored 41 points, James added 28 and the Heat finished off the once-frisky Indiana Pacers 105-93 in Game 6 Thursday night, advancing to face either Boston or Philadelphia...

Heat 105, Pacers 93

Dwyane Wade scored 41 points, LeBron James added 28 and Miami finished off the Indiana Pacers, sending the Heat back to the Eastern Conference finals with a 105-93 victory in Game 6 on Thursday night. Miami wrapped up the best-of-7 series and will face either Boston or Philadelphia in the next round starting Monday. Nothing less than an NBA title will make for a satisfying summer...

Heat resting up before return to East finals

Dwyane Wade has been battling knee soreness. LeBron James was hobbling after a falling into a courtside cameraman. Chris Bosh remains sidelined indefinitely with an abdominal strain. Mike Miller looks to be in agony whenever he moves. An extra day of rest doesn't sound like much, but it means plenty right now to the Miami Heat. Now halfway to their goal of an NBA championship...

Can LeBron, Wade keep soaring higher?

INDIANAPOLIS We're getting to see how high two guys can fly. With the Miami Heat down two games to one a few days ago, old man Dwyane Wade got five years younger. LeBron James did everything, even became a closer. It was surely among the greatest three-game playoff stretches for two teammates in NBA history. And the Heat eliminated Indiana Thursday night, 105-93 in Game 6 to...
NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.