LeBron James gives animated speech to Heat teammates at halftime of Game 5
James, who finished with a game-high 30 points (on 13-for-26 shots), eight rebounds and six assists in a 90-79 victory over the Pacers, unleashed a profanity-laced motivational speech in a team huddle before the start of the second half.
"I just got in them and let them know that we can't just play by talent, we've got to go out and play with a sense of urgency, both offensively and defensively and my guys responded," James explained.
The 2013 MVP, flanked by Dwyane Wade on his right and Chris Bosh on his left, slammed his right fist into his hand multiple times and apparently cursed as he spoke, as the TNT broadcast blurred out his mouth on multiple occasions. Indiana led 44-40 at halftime; the Heat went on to win the third quarter 30-13, with James outscoring the Pacers by himself.
"I just didn't think were playing Miami Heat basketball in the first half," James said. "What kept us in the game in the first half was our talent. That's not what we're about. We didn't play with a sense of urgency and we were only down four and that wasn't a good sign."
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was happy to step aside and allow James to address his teammates. "[What James] talked about was just doing whatever it takes and competing for each other without leaving anything out there," he said.
Turns out, James wasn't the only Heat player to raise his voice at halftime. Veteran forward Juwan Howard, who played just 51 minutes for the team this season and has yet to make an appearance in the playoffs, kicked things off in the locker room. Howard, 40, signed with the Heat in March and serves in a quasi-assistant coach role for the team.
"Juwan's voice in our locker room on the floor is as big as anyone," James said. "As big as [Spoesltra], as big as mine, [Udonis Haslem, Dwyane Wade]. That's why we brought him back because he's an instrumental part of our team."
Haslem added: "He's here for a reason. He gives maximum effort every day in practice. And when he has the opportunity to lead verbally, he leads verbally."
According to Haslem, Howard's version of "leading verbally" included a passionate address in which he "threw a couple things around in the locker room."
"It all started with Juwan Howard," Haslem recalled. "He pretty much started getting into us at halftime. Coach didn't really have to say much. Then, LeBron just took over and echoed what Juwan said. We weren't playing with enough energy and effort, we were looking around kind of expecting plays to be made without going out and making them. In the second half, we talked about going out and making plays and taking over on both ends of the floor."
The million-dollar question: What exactly did James say during his speech that required the television broadcast to censor his mouth?
"There was a lot of bleeps and stuff like that," Haslem joked. "[The basic message was] go out there and take the game. Go out there and take it. They're not going to give it to us. We can't question ourselves, we have to play together, have confidence in each other and live with the results."
Of course, James will receive attention for his Knute Rockne moment because he backed it up on the court, tearing apart the Pacers in the second half.
"We just had no sense of urgency," James said of Miami's start. "We were just waiting for the game to change instead of going to get it. Instead of going to make plays and make things happen and make changes, we were waiting for things to happen. ... There was a few plays in the first half that were just like, didn't make any sense to us. Didn't make any sense to me and to some of the guys, like a couple of plays we know we're capable of making that we just [weren't] making. And it had nothing to do with Xs and Os. It was about a sense of urgency. I think we all sensed that, we all felt that. I am glad we were able to turn it around."
The Heat now lead the Pacers 3-2 in the series and stand one win away from a 2013 Finals match-up against the Spurs. Should they find that win on Saturday in Indiana or on Monday in Miami, James would make his third straight Finals appearance and have the chance to defend his 2012 title.
"That's what I came here for," he said. "To be able to compete for a championship each and every year. We are one step away from doing it once again. But it's not a promise. It's not promised at all." Video via YouTube user beyondthebuzzercom