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LeBron James: “I just have to play better”

Jun 12, 2013, 2:40 AM EST

SPO-BASKET-NBA-FINALS-SPURS-HEAT Getty Images

Through three games of the NBA Finals, LeBron James is averaging 16.3 points a game on 38.9 percent shooting — the best player on the planet has looked average (well, for him).

And passive. In Game 3 Tuesday night with the Spurs packing the paint and having defenders playing a step off him in isolation, LeBron settled for the jumpshots the Spurs wanted him to take. Credit Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green for being at the point of a good Spurs defense, but LeBron didn’t challenge that defense. The result was an ugly 7-of-21 shooting night with zero free throw attempts. And an embarrassing Heat loss that in part flowed out of that.

“Well, honestly I just have to play better,” an up front James said after the game. “I can’t have a performance like tonight and expect to win. I’ve got to shoot the ball better, make better decisions and I will get into the film and see ways that I can do that. I’m not putting blame on anybody, I’m owning everything that I did tonight.”

With Chris Bosh unable to hit midrange jumpers he nailed all season, and with Dwyane Wade slowed and the Heat playing off him (they are almost ignoring him on the perimeter to pack the paint), the Heat need LeBron to be the best player in the game today. They can’t win otherwise. While his instinct is to pass out of the double and take the open shot when he gets it, now it is time for him to put his head down and get to the rim.

When LeBron attacked Tuesday night he was fine — he hit 5-of-7 shots within 5 feet of the rim. But the Spurs made it hard to get those shots while daring him to shoot from the midrange and beyond. LeBron took the bait and hit 1-of-9 from the midrange and 1-of-5 from three. During the season he was a solid outside shooter (43 percent from the midrange and 40.6 percent from three) but that shot has deserted him in the finals. He’s not making up for that by attacking the rim.

“I have to do better,” LeBron reiterated. “If I’m better we’re better and I have to be better. I’m putting everything on my chest and on my shoulders and I have to be better. My teammates are doing a great job and I’m not doing my part.”

The Spurs are not going to change what they are doing or who they are doing it with. It’s up to LeBron to solve this himself. Do that and the Heat can even this series Thursday night, but one more game like this and Miami is going to be in a hole it will not be able to dig out of.

  1. spursareold - Jun 12, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    LeBron’s primary problem isn’t his jumper, it’s the fact that he’s morphing into a muscular version of Lamar Odom, the benchmark for talented, passive players.

  2. losanginsight - Jun 12, 2013 at 11:39 AM

    not 2 not 3 not 4 not 5 not 6…just 1*

  3. mannyicey - Jun 12, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    For everyone who’s still trying to compare Lebron to MJ, just stop it, OK?! This has been settled! Jordan was THE superstar on his team. They ran the offense through Jordan. Jordan took the majority of the shots from the Bulls. The other superstars became superstars (minus Dennis Rodman) because they supported Jordan. Folks went to the HOF supporting Jordan.

    I mean, you had to have actually watched him play to realize that if the game’s on the line, the ball was in Jordan’s hands. Everyone played their part (Center and PF were the rebounders and garbage men, PG made sure that the ball went to Jordan at the right angle and then they went to spot up for the 3, PF or SF set the pick and was ready to accept the dish in case Jordan was double or triple-teamed.) It was the Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls show.

    It’s just not the case with Lebron. He’s the facilitator. Jordan was the recipient. It’s not even the same kind of basketball! So can we please leave the whole “Next Michael Jordan” thing out of our Lebron discussions? I mean, can you at least wait until Seventh Woods get our of the 9th Grade?

  4. 1historian - Jun 12, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    For the Heat to win

    Lebron has to play like he’s never played before, juyst better
    His teammates have to step up

    • 2late2matter - Jun 12, 2013 at 2:48 PM

      For the Heat to win:

      “If and and buts were candy and nuts every day would be Christmas.” Isn’t going to happen with LeChoke, D-Whine, and Boo-Boo.

  5. livingsacrifice86 - Jun 12, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    I’m a big Lebron fan and a certain Heat bandwagoner (I’m from the Pacific NW, I don’t have a team anymore). He is the most frustrating player to watch in my almost 30 years of watching basketball. Watching him get the ball on a post up and him turn around and size up players like Danny Green for a good ten seconds before he shoots a step back jumper is absolutely sickening. IMO, he is over analyzing the defense and missing his opportunities to attack. If he hasn’t figured out he’s not getting more then 10-12 from Bosh and about 15 from Wade by now, I think we could all agree once and for all this guy is no MJ or Kobe. No free throw attempts? Not even a charge trying to create something at the hoop? It’ll be interesting to see what happens in game 4

  6. 1historian - Jun 12, 2013 at 12:26 PM

    For the Heat to win

    Lebron has to play like he’s never played before, only better

    His teammate ALL have to up their games BIGTIME

    The Spurs have to play poorly.

    IOW – Ain’t gonna happen

    Spurs in 5

  7. delius1967 - Jun 12, 2013 at 1:39 PM

    Can’t wait to see “King James” go to 1-3 in Finals series. He’ll be one overly-green opponent away from being the NBA version of the Bills.

    • cantonbound13 - Jun 12, 2013 at 3:23 PM

      Maybe he needs to team up with 2 more all stars.

    • uscthom78 - Jun 19, 2013 at 12:23 AM

      I rather go 1-3 than 0-0.

  8. 2late2matter - Jun 12, 2013 at 2:16 PM

    King Le Choke is subconsciously looking for any way to absorb so much “pressure” (expected of every proclaimed Superstar) that when the finally Heat lose the series nobody else will be blamed except for LBJ. And before the bitter end arrives we will see him manufacture excuses and suddenly become injured which will become his reason for not executing to his potential.

    Ha! Actually, the Spurs are locking him down defensively and he is desperate in his passing and shot taking. He is looking like a one-trick-pony, and will have to live this defeat down.

  9. jbeagles23 - Jun 12, 2013 at 3:36 PM

    I love how when the heat blew out the spurs it was a bad night for the spurs. The spurs blew out the heat and its cause the figured the heat out. I beleive it was pop himself who said you learn more from a loss than a win. It took a record setting night for te spurs to blow out the heat. It took a common night for the heat to blow out the spurs

    • gmsingh123 - Jun 13, 2013 at 1:18 PM

      Hey beagles, does the double margin of victory enter into at all? Hell, if the Spurs were really trying they could’ve won by 50.

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