3 votes – Lebron James. From very early on in this game it was clear Lebron wasn’t going to get the calls he got back in Cleveland. And that’s when Mike Brown started getting hot flushes: “Once he decided to say, `Hey, I’m not getting calls. I’m going to will this team to a win,’ our whole team changed. Watching him flip that switch, it was very exciting. I just get a rush thinking about it.” As a Detroit fan, I can’t say it was very exciting. It was maddening. But it’s hard for even me to take anything away from Lebron and Cleveland in this game when Detroit just looked so lifeless. Sheed looked completely disinterested, Tay disappeared after the first quarter (although he was carrying some sort of back injury) and Rip couldn’t buy a bucket late. Lebron paced himself in this game perfectly. It was the type of game where Lebron would have been excused for jacking up 35 shots and trying to impose his will – none of his teammates could get it going early. But he stuck to his unselfish instincts, and eventually one of his teammates rose to the challenge (Joe Smith) and provided the balance that has been a hallmark of Cleveland all season long.
2 votes – Andre Iguodala. Was just awesome in this game, on both ends of the court. Yes he missed two free throws with 40 seconds left that could have sealed the game, but it was Iggy’s scoring kept the Sixers in front all game. I was surprised he didn’t get to take the last shot, considering his heroics in game 1, but I guess Young got the job done ok.
1 vote – Dwight Howard. This could have been the most important game of Dwight’s career, had the Magic won. This was Dwight being a leader and a clutch performer, something lacking in his post-season resume so far. He did everything you could ask for in this game: 36 points on 12/16 shooting, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks, and most impressively, 12-14 from the stripe (remember Dwight is a 60% FT shooter). Those two FTs Dwight hit with 6 seconds left could have been the most important points of his career, had the Magic won. But the Sixers last-second prayers were again answered, and Dwight could only shake his head while walking off the court. This whole series feels like a massive test of Dwight’s mettle: there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be dominating this Sixers team every game, but will his domination lead to wins or just big numbers on the statsheet? It’s one of the more fascinating subplots emerging from a series that I find myself caring more about each day.