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NBA Finals: Three things to get LeBron James going

Jun 12, 2011, 12:03 PM EDT

Miami Heat v Dallas Mavericks - Game Five Getty Images

There’s a lot of scrutiny on LeBron James‘ intangibles. How much effort he’s put in during these Finals. How much patience. How much intensity. How much focus. Is his head right? It goes on and on and on, ignoring the fact that the Mavericks have game-planned for James about as well as you can. They’ve been aggressive in their double once he puts the ball on the floor, challenged him with charge opportunities, attacked his dribble, and forced him away from his tendencies. Here’s a 3-step plan to get James back into the zone he’s been in during these playoffs.

Step 1: Off is better than on

The Mavericks start to salivate when James runs point. That’s supposed to be the terrifying super-option for Miami, having the former MVP running point with Wade and Bosh. But James too often gets frozen coming up the floor, wasting seconds trying to find a play developing. He waits too long to figure out what he’s going to do, and doesn’t have the improvisational skills to adjust when the defense shuts off his options. In short, him running point is a bad plan.

In Game 5, the Heat started by running James off-ball, having him work to catch and shoot. Their opening possessions was a post play for James on the right side. When the defense adjusted, he kicked it out… and then reposted. It was the last time we saw it from James in that game, despite the tremendous amount of pressure it puts on the defense. James also caught a fair number of passes off the cut beneath the rim. Hmm. 6-8, 285 lb. freak of nature, underneath a basketball rim getting the ball. I wonder if this is going to work? The Heat completely abandoned this plan by the third quarter, despite its success, opting instead for hero ball with James going back to watching defenders on the perimeter and running into doubles. Stubbornness is ugly.

Step 2: Make the daring pass

James is the best athlete on the floor, so why not give him a few opportunities to just go up and get the ball and take care of business? The Heat all season long tried too many highlight plays going for alley-oops. Abandoning those in the playoffs and especially the Finals is a sound strategy, it’s better to work for a quality shot. But the Mavericks have attacked all the sound sets the Heat have tried running, especially the pick and roll. So why not get James a few daring alley-oop plays? You want the defense to back off of Wade and James running the pick and roll. The lob is the best way to do this. It’s risky in terms of turnovers and a chance for the Mavericks to pick it off, but it’s also the best way to punish the Mavs for the defensive strategy they’ve settled on.

Game 3: Pretty simple…. make shots.

All of this changes if the jumper starts falling for James. All of it. That’s been the only real difference between the Celtics’ and Bulls’ series and the Finals. His jumper was hitting, then. Now, it’s not. To his credit James has tried to adjust to it, but the result makes it seem like he lacks confidence. He’s got to get the jumper going. I’m never an advocate for high-usage chucking, especially not in such a drastic situation. But the importance of James getting it going offensively and being able to beat the double and zone is so big, James should have a license to gun in the first half in order to get his jumper going. Without it, it’s hard to see how the Heat are going to be able to force a Game 7.

  1. Chris Ross - Jun 12, 2011 at 12:27 PM

    Obviously a huge game for the Heat tonight and this is it for Lebron. He needs to show to all the critics that he can perform in the 4th quarter like he did in previous series or else it’s Lebron choke for the rest of the summer. It’s going to be real interesting to see how hard he comes out tonight because I honestly thought he would come out beasting, maybe even forcing the issue in game 5 but he didn’t. You have to respect that in a way but at a certain point you would think that he would have the desire to simply take over the game so I’m not sure exactly what to take out of game 4’s triple double. I’m not totally attached to either team so really I’m hoping for a game 7 as an NBA fan. It would be awesome to see a do or die from both teams.

  2. thetooloftools - Jun 12, 2011 at 3:10 PM

    I cannot see the Mavs winning this game tonight. The Beast is wounded and dangerous. LeBron need to just shut up, show up, and put together a complete game. God forbid LeBron James should wake up and just calm down and decide to go out there and have fun and stop worrying.
    He would be unstoppable.
    It’s the pressure that is taking him off him game.
    Having said that, Wade should have NEVER said “they didn’t get me the ball enough in the 4th qtr” when asked why they lost.
    (He hurt his wife’s feelings and now she’s moping).
    The time for talk is over Miami.
    Put up or shut up.

    • royalsfaninfargo - Jun 12, 2011 at 3:54 PM

      I thought the “Beast” was wounded and dangerous before game 5 also? If im not mistaken James referred to it as the biggest game of his life.

      • thetooloftools - Jun 12, 2011 at 7:43 PM

        Yea, and he didn’t show up at the end when it counted. Anyone could have been distributed those points and assists during the first three quarters with that team. It what you do when the GONG GOES OFF in the 4th qtr that separates great players from legends. LeBron did not want the ball when it counted by turning his back on the ball handler. Love me, hate me, but I welcome your thoughts. LeBron James doesn’t know what the biggest game of his life even means.
        Every game was Micheal Jordan’s most important game of his life.
        You can’t teach killer instinct.
        Kobe has it. Game seven last year when he was trying to do too much Phil Jackson screamed at a sideline reporter “Kobe needs to trust his teammates”. And what happened. Kobe adjusted his game and they won the BIG GOLD BALL & that sweet ring that goes with it.
        I wish LeBron no ill will.
        He just needs to R E L A X and listen.
        LeBron is not the beast.
        The sum of Miami’s parts is the beast.
        I don’t see Miami losing tonight because they have the talent.
        Can they handle the pressure is the ?
        The gloves are coming off soon.
        I will.

    • scorch22 - Jun 12, 2011 at 8:01 PM

      I am sure the refs will ensure that the Mavs lose, there will be a game 7 its beneficial to the NBA big wigs.

  3. thesaint23 - Jun 12, 2011 at 3:43 PM

    will the queen play well or will she choke again?

    • thesaint23 - Jun 12, 2011 at 10:41 PM

      the heat & lebum choked again!

      God Bless George W. Bush and the Great State of Texas

  4. mistercharitystripe34 - Jun 12, 2011 at 4:03 PM

    Three things to solidify LeBron’s career

    1. Improve jumpshooting
    2. Develop some type of low-post/high-post game
    3. Play on the wings, not at the top of the key

    I can’t believe a player of his talent still has not fully realized it all eight years into his career. LeBron with a decent jumper and a post-up game would be unstoppable. People can criticize Derrick Rose’s penchant to shoot, but he did improve his shooting from nonexistant to servicable. Derrick Rose (seemingly) has a more grounded attitude about himself and about his profession. LeBron cares more about his brand than anything, it seems. Shame.

  5. markeyh - Jun 12, 2011 at 5:58 PM


  6. goforthanddie - Jun 12, 2011 at 6:19 PM

    If leBitch chokes away the title this season, Riley should look into moving him so Miami can have a real team next year.

  7. stoutfiles - Jun 12, 2011 at 11:26 PM

    LeBron doesn’t play offense yet again. Why does he hide in big games?

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