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LeBron James: “I just have to play better”

Jun 12, 2013, 2:40 AM EDT

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. saint1997 - Jun 12, 2013 at 3:59 AM

    LeBron is shooting 60% catch and shoot in regular season. Perhaps try and get the ball outta his hands and play him slashing and getting screens off the ball? Just a suggestion

    • spthegr8 - Jun 12, 2013 at 8:26 AM

      ^^^ Hard to slash when the Spurs are packing the paint. They are begging him & D Wade too shot that mid-range & they both seem too be shying away from the challenge. He has to take and make that jumper or this series will NOT be taking its talents back to south beach!!

    • spursareold - Jun 12, 2013 at 10:27 AM

      The Spurs solved that James/Chalmers pick and roll that was generating good shots for the Heat by simply not allowing Heat guards to run the baseline freely. It’s up to Spo to make an adjustment.

      • 2late2matter - Jun 12, 2013 at 2:20 PM

        …but expect Gregg Popovich to counter any move quickly and with a more efficient bench.

  2. cantonbound13 - Jun 12, 2013 at 4:50 AM

    Maybe he will score more than 17 in a game. Maybe he’ll hit a jump shot. I don’t remember Michael ever going 3 straight Finals games without breaking 20 points. Then again I din’t remember Michael being under .500 all time in the finals (7-12). Maybe the bandwagoners will finally agree, LeBron should never, ever be mentioned in the same breath as Michael. Then again there is a great chance the bandwagoners won’t be on here till game 4.

    • angulocarlos1 - Jun 12, 2013 at 4:56 AM

      Shut up stupid

      • cantonbound13 - Jun 12, 2013 at 5:45 AM

        Very well thought of, educated reply, moron.

    • divan22 - Jun 12, 2013 at 5:55 AM

      I don’t remember LeBron ever losing in the 1st round like MJ did… 3 times. And it’s better to lose in the Finals than to lose in the 1st round, because it means you got farther.

      See that? Two can play the silly cherry-picking criticism game.

      It’s a team sport. Once and for all, can we please stop thinking that INDIVIDUALS win championships and not TEAMS?

      • cantonbound13 - Jun 12, 2013 at 7:05 AM

        James played far inferior competition in the east while with Cleveland. The West was the dominant conference at the time with real teams like the Lakers, Spurs & Mavs. What happened when LeBron played those teams, oh yeah, 2-8 record & epic choking performances.
        MJ went up against hall of famers in those first rounds like Bird & . Who did LeBron play? Chauncey Billups? Please!

      • spthegr8 - Jun 12, 2013 at 8:16 AM

        Very pedestrian numbers by LBJ!! As great of a player as he is, you wouldn’t expect this from him. I thought he left this stuff behind him but apparently I was wrong. Give Pop in the Spurs ALL the credit
        For having such a solid game plan and executing it so well but this is NOT the same guy I saw play this yr. He lacks confidence right now, which is CRAZY too me cuz he just had one of the BEST yrs in the history of the game.

      • sportsfan18 - Jun 12, 2013 at 9:41 AM

        You’re right in that teams wins titles,not individuals. Basketball is different than the other major sports though with respect to the superstars…

        In basketball, the superstars can play upwards of 40 of the 48 min’s in a game and they play both offense and defense. They are 20% of those on the floor (as are the other players on the court too, but I’m only talking about superstars now).

        In the NFL, the big time QB’s are only 4.5% of their team (11 on offense and 11 on defense so they are 1 of 22). They don’t play any defense either.

        In MLB, the stars are 1 of 9 or 11%.

        A superstar in the NBA has a much greater impact and is able to impact their teams performance to a much greater extent than those in the NFL, the MLB, Hockey etc…

        So yes, teams still win titles, but the superstars do much more on a pro basketball team as a percentage compared to superstars in other pro leagues and I think this helps play a part in why “we” compare the stars so much like MJ, LBJ, Kobe and others…

      • 2late2matter - Jun 12, 2013 at 2:23 PM

        I’ve been saying King LeChoke is a one-trick-pony. Has, is, will be at the end of Gm 5.

      • long7575 - Jun 12, 2013 at 4:57 PM

        Divan you are so full of crap! Tell the Buffalo Bills or Vikings that getting farther but losing the big one is better! The fact is that Jordan is 6 for 6 in the finals with 6 finals M. V. P. ‘s. One he got there refuse to let his team lose which LeBrick could never say! The Heat got to this finals by default beating a Bulls team with no Rose and having to go 7 games to beat the Pacers with no Granger. Funny that when the Heat win it’s lebron put them on his back but when they lose you say it’s a team game! Lebrick will never be in the same class as MJ so stop it already!

    • gmsingh123 - Jun 12, 2013 at 7:25 AM

      This was an interesting game. The trend is that Pop’s defense will neutralize LeBron the entire series. What’s left, Shane Battier and Birdman carrying the team? Not hardly. Also, the Spurs fans were unbelievable. They might be as enthusiastic as Chicago fans, and I didn’t think that was possible. I love the way they cheered their team. The point of the night, though, was Van Gundy running his mouth how coaches like games like these because they serve as a wake up call to the team, and then when they showed Spoelstra on the bench he looked like he had a bad case of diarrhea. I think Spoelstra is a good guy but he’ll never be at Pop’s level. I wonder how George Karl will look coaching the team next year?

      • 2late2matter - Jun 12, 2013 at 2:26 PM

        Keep in mind the Spurs fans hadn’t seen their Final’s team in the home gym for 3 weeks. Now that they smell blood in the water, the Texas blood in the arena will be twice as crazy for games 4 & 5.

        Nobody enjoys their champions like San Antonio! Go Spurs.

      • gmsingh123 - Jun 12, 2013 at 3:03 PM

        Good point, I hadn’t thought of that.

  3. angulocarlos1 - Jun 12, 2013 at 4:56 AM

    Shut up stupid

  4. captainwisdom8888 - Jun 12, 2013 at 5:06 AM

    ive noticed 3 things thus far:

    -wade disappears regularly
    -leonard is beast enough to mark lebron
    -san antonio plays WAY better team ball. All of their players play a small part to execute each play. The heat dont have that same rhythm as a team

    • delius1967 - Jun 12, 2013 at 1:29 PM

      The last one I think we knew going in, and is why I’m rooting hard for SA in this series.

  5. jacksonkane - Jun 12, 2013 at 5:30 AM

    The good old passive Lebron rearing his head. If the Heat lose this series, which they should, this will seriously tarnish his legacy.

    While he did develop his killer instinct last playoffs, Wade has always been the ‘killer instinct’ guy on the Heat.

  6. rickyspanish - Jun 12, 2013 at 5:41 AM

    cantonbound13

    Always nice hearing a Knicks fan use Jordan as an example to compare LeBo to. Classic Knicks fan, using someone from a rival to belittle another rival. How come you didn’t dig into your precious Knicks’ illustrious history to find a comparable player?

  7. cantonbound13 - Jun 12, 2013 at 5:48 AM

    Interesting stat: The winner of game 3 wins the Championship 92% of the time. So Leaha, moveback, Pantsfree, cane, moronmatt you all should just jump now, you have nothing to live for.

    • gmsingh123 - Jun 12, 2013 at 7:27 AM

      That’s a lot of thumbs downs. How did the Heat go from the team “built for championships” to a team full of Nate Robinsons trying so hard to get the job done overnight? Hopefully the Spurs will bury them by 40 pts in the next game.

    • miamatt - Jun 12, 2013 at 10:13 AM

      To the contrary, I’ve already gotten to watch my team win a couple of titles in the past 8 years. I would hat to lose these finals but my world will still be turning. And it truly never gets old to watch the Knicks fall flat on their face. It must kill you to know in your heart that the Knicks aren’t even close to being in Miami’s class, and they aren’t about to get closer. I can accept trash talk from a Spurs fan, but YOU? You are a fly splattered on the windshield.

      If there is one fan who ought to turn on a gas oven and stick his head in, it’s you.

      • delius1967 - Jun 12, 2013 at 1:34 PM

        Thumbs up to you having the cahones to say “win” with a straight face when talking about 2006.

      • cantonbound13 - Jun 12, 2013 at 3:33 PM

        The Miami Heat & class are 2 words that don’t belong together. They are the most unprofessional, classless organization in all of sports, as are the majority of their fan base.

  8. showtime75 - Jun 12, 2013 at 6:29 AM

    divan…. you just showed us all u have no damn clue. Don’t even compare ANYTHING Bron does to MJ until he has even half the championships MJ does. Damn kids, get a clue

  9. valeb2012 - Jun 12, 2013 at 6:34 AM

    Has there ever been a non-Center superstar with a more suspect jumper?

    • r0llinginthedeep - Jun 12, 2013 at 7:31 AM

      Other than Bob Cousy (when no one could shoot), the only one I can really think of is Dr. J.

      Lebron isn’t really a terrible shooter though, although his shooting form hurts my eyes to watch. He needs to adopt the same perspective as Erving though. When asked about why he hadn’t developed a good mid-range game, Dr. J simply responded “Because I don’t have to”.

  10. slowclyde86 - Jun 12, 2013 at 6:51 AM

    Alright, which of LBJ’s team mates slept with his mom in this finals?

    • maddog111 - Jun 12, 2013 at 11:27 AM

      Okay, that one actually made me laugh out loud.

  11. davidly - Jun 12, 2013 at 7:00 AM

    The Heat have tried the small-ball and they just got outmatched at their own game. In terms of actually playing basketball, James was not thinking about taking more than 21 shots because the competition was too stiff. A guy with his caliber of skill-set and b-ball IQ (which is off the charts) knows a bit about what is available to him on the court.

    Hard to say where this series is headed, but I would much rather the game be decided as players play, rather than on who puts their heads down (and shoulders forward) so they can shoot from the stripe. That’s the definition of boring ball, irrespective of how many points are scored.

  12. 1972wasalongtimeago - Jun 12, 2013 at 7:13 AM

    PJ quote of the day:

    Nothing’s as it seems

    • gmsingh123 - Jun 12, 2013 at 7:28 AM

      That sounds like a David Stern quote.

    • cantonbound13 - Jun 12, 2013 at 7:29 AM

      What would PJ say about a 35 point loss in a big game?

      • 1972wasalongtimeago - Jun 12, 2013 at 7:59 AM

        Whipping

      • explosionsauce - Jun 12, 2013 at 7:59 AM

        I’m still alive.

        (Spurs fan but bigger pearl jam fan)

      • loungefly74 - Jun 12, 2013 at 8:37 AM

        rats

      • 1972wasalongtimeago - Jun 12, 2013 at 9:10 AM

        Hard to Imagine

  13. westlaw1 - Jun 12, 2013 at 7:13 AM

    Has there ever been a non-Center superstar with a more suspect jumper?
    _______________________________

    Magic had a suspect jumper.

  14. gmsingh - Jun 12, 2013 at 7:15 AM

    There’s always next year. I wonder how George karl will look as coach?

  15. jbeagles23 - Jun 12, 2013 at 7:45 AM

    Yea a non center with a suspect jumper. See MJ. You clearly didn’t watch him much of his cAreer because the biggest knock on him wa his jumper

    • bucrightoff - Jun 12, 2013 at 7:48 AM

      Yeah, averaging 35 points a game one season one 53% (!!!) shooting shows how much MJs jumper sucked. Or a career 50% shooter with a 30PPG average. I’m not expecting Heat fans to know the history of the game because to them the NBA started in 2010.

      • melkipershero - Jun 12, 2013 at 7:56 AM

        Regular season. Playoff shooting percentages were lower because you play better defensive teams. MJ is the GOAT. He played 13 years and still has tons of scoring records. Thats impressive as hell. If you think MJ was a saint you need to read The Jordan Rules.

      • cantonbound13 - Jun 12, 2013 at 8:02 AM

        No use arguing with a bandwagoner, they didn’t see MJ play. They just started watching the NBA 3 years ago. They missed out on watching skilled players like Bird, Magic, MJ & skilled centers like Olajuwon, Ewing, Robinson, and Shaq.

      • 1heatedtoombrayduh - Jun 12, 2013 at 8:37 AM

        I really wish ppl didnt use “Heat fans” as such a generalization..we are not ALL bandwagoners…I will say and admit Michael jordan is the GOAT in my opinon..greatest winner? Bill Russell..

        I’ll admit our faults and downfalls. I’d like to believe i’m unbiased.

        I just hate when i say im a heat fan and i get that rolling of the eyes like “here goes another bandwagoner” There WERE heat fans before the big 3..Im just saying lol

    • explosionsauce - Jun 12, 2013 at 8:10 AM

      Jordan’s jumper wasn’t ever as ugly as Lebron’s nor as inconsistent. Jordan perfected the fadeaway jump shot, perfected it. Granted that was more so during his second 3ring title run but still it was never as bad as Lebron. I feel bad for kids who weren’t old enough to remember true greatness.

    • asimonetti88 - Jun 12, 2013 at 11:21 AM

      The knock on him wasn’t his jump shot. It was his three point shot. He had an outstanding midrange shot and a great jumper in general. Even his three point shooting improved over his career to the point where he shot in the mid .300-low .400 from three at the end of his career.

  16. melkipershero - Jun 12, 2013 at 7:50 AM

    Canton you should find something better to do in life. Ive never seen someone wait until every possible moment to put people down. You must lead an exciting life.

    MJ had horrible Finals games. Hed shoot 13-33 and lines like that. He shot way more than Lebron. He also played on All Time great teams. Wade will always be overrated. He is no Pippen. 10 years in the league with no jumpshot to speak of. Miami has no big. Great teams need bigs. The Heat arent a great team just very good. Which is why I picked Spurs in 6. The Finals MVP would be Gary Neal or Danny Granger. That says a lot about this series so far.

    The one team to lose the series after winning game 3 with it tied 1-1 was Miami against Dallas. To write Miami off would be insane.

  17. jbeagles23 - Jun 12, 2013 at 8:06 AM

    I guess you didn’t watch the games. Any idiot can google stats. I you had watched the game MJ was so dominate he got to the rim at will. He was amazing. The biggest knock on him was his jump shot. Cantonbound were you even on this site before the Knicks played alright to start the season? Keep talking and talking from behind your screen cause your team sucks.

    • cantonbound13 - Jun 12, 2013 at 8:12 AM

      I’ve been here all along. Unfortunately long enough to hear some of your ridiculous comments. MJ’s jumper is what you question? 2 of his most famous shots are the jumper over Ehlo & the push off of Russel filled by the jumper over him to clinch his 6th title. Your stupidity just continues to amaze me. One of the reasons I have been on this site & will continue to be on this site is the humor I get in reading your trash.

  18. jbeagles23 - Jun 12, 2013 at 8:08 AM

    MJ had many struggles in his career

    • cantonbound13 - Jun 12, 2013 at 8:13 AM

      6 rings? what a struggle!

    • gmsingh123 - Jun 13, 2013 at 1:25 PM

      MJ did have struggles. He had nagging injuries that he played through constantly. Dwyane Wade looks like he should be in a rest home in comparison. LeBron is as physically tough as MJ or Kobe, but he’ll flake out mentally and probably retire before he is comparable to those guys.

  19. kavika6 - Jun 12, 2013 at 8:20 AM

    It must be pretty embarrassing for a self-proclaimed basketball God to be shut down by a second year player that a lot of people have never heard of.

  20. shockexchange - Jun 12, 2013 at 8:21 AM

    The Spurs are giving the Kang the mid-range jumper. If he can’t knock down that shot consistently, he will continue to struggle. The other issue is that the Heat is undersized. The Spurs hit a lot of 3’s, however, many of those looks came from 2, 3, sometimes 4 shot attempts per possession. The Heat couldn’t keep the bigger Spurs off the boards.

  21. jbeagles23 - Jun 12, 2013 at 8:23 AM

    I didn’t say he wasn’t clutch however go watch the games dumb dumb. His mid range game was above average. His three point shooting was subpar. He was dominate in the lane

  22. abasketballthing - Jun 12, 2013 at 8:31 AM

    A shot over two defenders is a bad shot. LeBron is not going to score through 2 or 3 spurs defenders at the rim. He needs to start making his jumpers. The reason why he’s such a huge offensive threat now is that he can make jumpers from distance. If taking away the drive was all it took to stop LeBron, he’d be pretty much the same guy he was in 2007. Forcing things isn’t going to help, especially for a guy who never has. He and Bosh just need to keep shooting until they get it back.

    • 2late2matter - Jun 12, 2013 at 2:40 PM

      And MacArthur’s Park is melting in the dark. Not going to happen.

  23. jbeagles23 - Jun 12, 2013 at 8:38 AM

    Lebron needs to find that balance of getting his team involved and getting his. I mean tony Parker isn’t excactly playing as great as he can but there’s no mention of that. Can’t be upset after the spurs hit that many threes.

  24. klownboy - Jun 12, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    Please don’t tell me that LeBron is turning back into “The Frozen One”. I am starting to feel a little uneasy over my “Heat in 6″ Finals pick.
    http://wp.me/p1gCK6-EV

    • maddog111 - Jun 12, 2013 at 11:34 AM

      I think it’s starting to look like that klownboy. I remember at one point last night, they were down 28, he passed up a wide open three, and for a few seconds there it was like he, Bosh, and Wade were playing hot potato. Eaching getting rid of it as quickly as they could so as not to be the one to look foolish by missing another shot. I expect a bounce back game Thursday, but if not, this series is going to end on Sunday. And so might the big three’s run together.

  25. gmsingh123 - Jun 12, 2013 at 9:46 AM

    The Heat only have one strategy left: improve their flopping performance.

    • 2late2matter - Jun 12, 2013 at 2:43 PM

      …to which the Spurs (with home advantage) will take the offensive charges and find themselves at the foul line the entire 4th quarter. Popovich has been in a few rodeos…..

      • gmsingh123 - Jun 12, 2013 at 3:04 PM

        Pop has LeBron completely psyched out at this point. I’m not sure he’ll be effective for the entire rest of the series.

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