It came down to one play.
LeBron James, one of the greatest players in the history of the game, had the ball in his hands. And all that stood between him and a win was Knicks forward Mario Hezonja, a third-year player who was seeing his first court time in more than a month.
And most improbably Hezonja came out the winner.
Hezonja blocked a 13-foot runner by James to cap an incredible defensive fourth quarter against one of the hardest covers in the game. And the result was a 124-123 Knicks’ win.
Hezonja, who was mobbed by his teammates afterward, said he had always dreamed of making a game-winning play — he just never thought it would be on defense. “That’s what I was saying to Scott Perry and Steve Mills after the game,” Hezonja said in reference to the Knicks’ president and general manager. “I said if you sign me because of this defense, you’re crazy.”
Hezonja said he has been trying to make himself an indispensable two-way player, because that’s what NBA teams need most in today’s fast-paced game. Hezonja helped hold James to 4-for-15 shooting in the final quarter.
“He just missed shots. Don’t get that twisted,” said Hezonja, who sat out the last 12 games with a sore leg. “If you are saying you are the reason he’s missing shots, you are an idiot. Pretty simple.”
Hezonja said he first found out he was going to be the main guy on James seconds before he walked onto the court.
“I felt like he was a guy who could battle LeBron athletically,” coach David Fizdale said. “I thought Mario would be a good matchup on him.”
Hezonja had maybe only one clear advantage over James, the fact he is 10 years younger. He admitted that he was trying to do everything he could to wear him down.
“If I didn’t do that, then I didn’t do a good job,” said Hezonja who had 17 points and eight rebounds. “I hope I did because I was picking him up fullcourt for the entire game.”