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Does anyone really know how LeBron will play in Game 4?

Jun 13, 2013, 8:45 AM EDT

Miami Heat v San Antonio Spurs - Game Three Getty Images

LeBron James was pretty clear about what he thought of his Game 3 performance — “I played like s—.”

He says Game 4 will be different. But does that mean we really know how he will respond and play in Game 4?

No.

And that may be the most frustrating thing about LeBron. It’s not that he chooses to pass out of the double-team to an open teammate, that’s the smart basketball play and that kind of criticism (even before he had a ring) always missed the mark. No, it’s that the most gifted player the league might have ever seen doesn’t impose his will on every contest. He’s unpredictable.

NBCSports.com’s own brilliant Joe Posnanski said it better than I ever could.

He might dominate the game from start to finish. He might haltingly disappear into the empty spaces. He might grab 20 rebounds or four, might dish out 15 assists or commit seven turnovers, might score 50 or 18. He might get a triple-double without playing well, or he might entirely control the game without putting up interesting numbers. His games are as unpredictable as Indiana Jones movies. Only, sometimes, the boulder crushes him.

Michael Jordan wasn’t like this. Magic Johnson wasn’t like this. In his absolute prime, Kobe Bryant wasn’t like this. It isn’t that they were great every game. They weren’t. But they were predictable in some deeper way. They were inevitable. They played the same aggressive, forceful game every time. True, sometimes the shots didn’t fall. Sometimes the passes didn’t quite connect. Sometimes they even looked to be in a bit of a fog. But they were fundamentally the same. They were recognizable forces of nature.

LeBron James, though, is like a human mood ring. You just never know.

We need to credit Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs defense for how they have approached the Heat in general and LeBron in particular. They are the masters of baiting you into the shots they want you to take.

But rather than impose his will on the game, he has taken the Spurs bait. Hook, line and sinker.

Game 4 might be different, LeBron has sounded like he plans to bring it.

But do we really know? Do we ever really know?

  1. HotHotHeat - Jun 13, 2013 at 9:29 AM

    Only the basketball gods know which Lebron will be in the building tonight.

    • condor75 - Jun 13, 2013 at 12:42 PM

      So 4 time MVP, One ring, three consecutive finals, and he is a basketball enigma, WOW, I hope you guys hold yourselves to the same standard at your jobs, kinda doubt it

  2. lkasprzak - Jun 13, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    That is why he will never be bigger than MJ23

    • cantonbound13 - Jun 13, 2013 at 11:12 AM

      Only an idiot would compare him to MJ. Here are a few NBA Finals stats that proves without a doubt MJ was clearly the better player. Even the bandwagoners can’t object.

      Record PPG FG% 3pt% RPG APG Steals Games over 40 pts Games under 20 points
      MJ: 24-11 33.6 48 37 6 6 1.8 6 0

      LeHype: 7-11 21.5 43 25 8 7 1.4 0 6

      LeHype has already lost as many games in the Finals as Michael, with 5 less rings. MJ never lost more than 2 games in any series, LeHype had lost 4 games in a row, twice!!! 1/3 of his games played in the Finals he’s managed not to score 20 points, including an amazing 8 point performance. All that nonsense about him being an all around better player and how he is willing to pass the ball to his teammates, he only averages 1 assist more a game & 2 rebounds more than MJ who was 2 inches smaller and weighed 50 lbs less than LeHype.
      Enough with the comparisons to MJ, it’s idiotic and proves that the bandwagoners know NOTHING about the game.

      • lkasprzak - Jun 13, 2013 at 3:02 PM

        I didn’t compare him to MJ. MJ is an icon, a guy who could lift the team. MJ takes responsibility, he lived for this moments of the game, just like Kobe. Pressure give them wings. With LeBron is completely different story… Pressure disturb him…

  3. shockexchange - Jun 13, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    If the Heat gets out-rebounded 36-52 again then it won’t matter how The Kang plays. The Heat can’t keep giving up two, three or four shots per possession or this series won’t go back to Miami.

  4. johnelwayismydad - Jun 13, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    What’s the point? He might show up, but the rest of the team will take the night off, no consistency.

  5. gmsingh123 - Jun 13, 2013 at 9:47 AM

    How will LeBron play? If he’s defensed as well as in the previous games he will play as well as he did in the previous games. He is not an MJ, Kobe, Magic, or Larry Legend. He has never shown that he can rise to the occasion. He can make a face like he’s eating lemons when he gets called for a foul as well as anybody, but when he’s defended by a Kawhi, Luol Deng, Jimmy Butler, or Paul George he looks like an average player. I would actually like to see him step up to that championship mentality where he looks unstoppable, but I don’t think he’s that guy. Sorry, Kurt.

    • borderline1988 - Jun 13, 2013 at 12:08 PM

      You’re an idiot.

      It had nothing to do with which individual player is guarding Lebron…nobody can can really contain him over a game (1 on 1). It’s all about team defense. Kawhi Leonard is just told to stay in front of him, and let him shoot jumpers. If he drives, be aggressive with him, and make sure you have bigs to come over and help.

      If you recall last series, whenever Hibbert was out of the game, Lebron destroyed Paul George…He simply drove, and out-muscled & out-quicked his defender to the rim.

      Lebron doesn’t have the same ability as Jordan or Kobe to hit fadeaway jumpers and make those kind of scoring plays when 15 – 20 feet away from the basket. Those guys are harder to guard when they’re hot. However, when they’re not hot, they’re relatively easier to guard b/c they couldn’t do as much on the court as Lebron can.

      However, if Lebron is hitting jumpers, he’s an offensive force that becomes impossible to stop, b/c it forces the other team to either:
      a) Step up on Lebron at the 3pt line, in which case Lebron can easily explode by that defender
      b) Double team Lebron, in which case Lebron is perhaps the best over-the-top passer in the NBA, and the Heat will kill you with 3 pointers.

      The Spurs are not even getting hands up on Lebron’s jumpers. They are simply holding back and packing the paint whenever Lebron puts the ball on the floor.
      That prior game blowout happened for 2 reasons: 1) Lebron couldn’t hit anything outside of 10 feet 2) The Spurs were hitting everything from outside.
      If those trends reverse, San Antonio will get blow out.

  6. reedme16 - Jun 13, 2013 at 9:56 AM

    Before Lebron came to the Heat I used to hate his game! I still hate that he only shows his brilliance in spurts and key moments. The worst part about this is that the Heat has taken on this quality as a team. Even during the 4 bad years after 2006 we always played hard and fought every game. We knew Wade would be aggressive and give his all even if the shots weren’t falling. Now its like this team has no killer instinct and always need to me pushed to perform at their peak. I blame Lebrons leadership for this and it has gotten worse as Wade has taken a backseat.

    That being said we all know Lebron will have a huge game tonight. Every time he says he will he usually does. I know Lebron has a high bball IQ, but as a star your job is to put the team on your back sometimes. We were down by 23 and Lebron was still holding the ball trying to make the right play instead of just coming down And trying to take over. Even when he went on that 9-0 run, it didn’t feel energetic at all. If Lebron had Wades killer instinct he would be the best player ever. Too bad he isn’t built that way. My Heat don’t look hungry over these past 3 games. Hopefully that kick in ACE will wake them up.

    PS….I’m on board with trading Bosh to the Bobcats for the #4 pick, Byron Mullens, and another bum!

    • miamatt - Jun 13, 2013 at 11:05 AM

      Really? Down 2-1 and now it’s trade Bosh for a bag of Cheetos and James is only intermittently spectacular?

      I hear what you are saying to a degree, Miami can be infuriating with their lack of intensity at times, but they are in their 3rd straight finals, to imply that they got there by coasting is disrespectful to rest of the league. For me, reality is that sharing the ball and playing a smart team game are qualities that we laude when the Heat win, and it is part of the reason why guys love to play with LeBron. When Wade is a role player, whatever the reason, the Heat’s weaknesses are easy to expose. We’ll see if LeBron and the coaching staff have a plan to get LeBron efficient points. I still say this series goes as Miami’s defensive effort and intensity goes.

      • gmsingh123 - Jun 13, 2013 at 1:12 PM

        Trade Bosh for a bag of Cheetos–LOL. I don’t know who would come out on the losing end of that deal. Wait, are they flamin’ hot Cheetos?

    • bougin89 - Jun 13, 2013 at 12:59 PM

      I wouldn’t make that trade if I were the Bobcats. I wouldn’t lock myself into Bosh’s contract in exchange for cheap, young talent.

  7. jbeagles23 - Jun 13, 2013 at 10:14 AM

    He’ll never be the scorer everyone wants him to be. Probably jut on the brink of the top 10 best scorers in the game today. He dominates games in other ways. Remember its not the two greats on San Antonio. ( I don’t consider ginoblli a great) that are taking over this series, its the role players. Just like it was the heats roll players last year. Every player in the history of the nba would’ve been discouraged last game when their opponent was hitting shots at the pace the spurs were . Duncan didn’t look so happy in game 2 when they got smashed either but he didn’t take the criticism lebron is. People hate on lebron because they’re jealous and terrified of how good a player he actually is. No one can fathom that 10 years from now the all mighty Jordan night not be the goat an it hurts their petty little feelings

  8. golfrangeman - Jun 13, 2013 at 10:19 AM

    We can talk about individual’s all we want but if there’s one thing we’ve learned from this series this is a team sport. No I repeat NO individual will win this thing on their own. Game 3 you would have thought the big 3 for S.A were bench players but the team played great and made play after play. That’s how you win games.

  9. azarkhan - Jun 13, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    I think James will play like a 4 time MVP, looking for his shot, aggressive in the paint, trying to get to the foul line. The question then is how will the referees call the game? So far I think the refs have been outstanding. They haven’t ruined the rhythm of games by calling silly ticky tack fouls and they’ve ignored flops. We’ve seen good, physical basketball. However, if the refs call a tight game and James can get the Spurs bigs in foul trouble, then the Heat will have a good shot at taking Game 4.

  10. kchristainsen - Jun 13, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    Does anyone really care?

  11. miamatt - Jun 13, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    We will see, but I’ve seen LeBron and the Heat have dirt shoveled on them prematurely too many times in the past to give up on them now. No, I really can’t predict how this game will go or how the series will finish if indeed Miami ties it up 2-2, but this fan is gonna dance with the one who brung him.

    GO HEAT!!!

  12. reedme16 - Jun 13, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    Lebron never rises to the occasion? Avg player? We do realize that he had 18pts 18rebs and 6ast in game 1 right? Or lets take his game 6 last year against Boston in Boston down 3-2. Or how about his performance against the Pacers down 2-1. You can even go back to his Cleveland days, they lost but he performed. Even in the infamous Celtics game when people said he quit, he had a triple double. People go to far with the Lebron hatred. He is not better than Jordan, But to act like he is not I’m the discussion of legends is plum stupid. Every failure is overblown and achievement is minimized with Lebron. And the one difference between Lebron and the legends is that he plays under a bigger microscope than any of the legends. Basketball is about more than points scored!

  13. jzone954 - Jun 13, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    The problems is the big 3 was assembled that if one of them should go down and falter, then the other 2 help pick that 1 up…..which hasn’t been the case. I mean I would be amazed to see Wade or Bosh score over 20 Pts AT ALL this series…..Bosh should be arrested for the money he is straight up STEALING. I mean my man is literally a role player. And now his norm seems to be 10-12 Pts MAXIMUM a game. That’s not good Lebron shouldn’t have to drop 35 12 and 8 for this team to win. Duncan isn’t. TP isn’t Genobli isn’t…..the others guys have to help lebron

  14. reedme16 - Jun 13, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    And keep mind it is typically role players like Leonard who give stars trouble. people seem to forget that a player like Gearld Wilkerson would give Jordan trouble from time to time. Regardless of what you believe Jordan did struggle from time to time he just kept forcing the issue. That’s not better than making the right play like Lebron. Jordan had to adjust to making the right play instead of forcing the issue, Where Lebron has to learn to force the issue as opposed to making the right play.

  15. golfrangeman - Jun 13, 2013 at 11:37 AM

    Yes!! Fans of basketball do care. That’s why we watch the games and post on this forum.

  16. tcclark - Jun 13, 2013 at 11:50 AM

    Is that a serious question? Anyone from the future want to let us know how he’s gonna play?

  17. reedme16 - Jun 13, 2013 at 11:56 AM

    Being down 2-1 has nothing to do with their effort level. I’m a Heat fan and watch every game. Even during the season they coast for the quarters before turning up the intensity in the 4th quarter. Their effort from game to game is not consistent. That’s a problem for a team as talented as the Heat. PERIOD! They are in the Finsls, no reason to look unmotivated or uninterested at times.

    And a bag of Cheetoes for Bosh would be an upgrade. If Bosh refuses to be aggressive penetrating, doesnt want to rebound, and just want to hang around the three point line and chunk up shots? Yes give me Mullens or McRoberts who does the exact same thing for far less. Plus a #4 pick that would allow for Mia to get an inside presence. Not to mention the cap relief. Yea I’m on board for that.

  18. aboogy123456 - Jun 13, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    I’m sick of hearing about what’s wrong with the heat, and then when they win, what is the Heat doing right? Can people just understand that the Spurs are a superior team, and maybe it’s about what they are doing right? Lebron is a great player, but this heat team is one of the least talented teams to make the finals in recent memory. They are very good but they were never a great team, give lebron some credit that they are in the finals in the first place.

    • condor75 - Jun 13, 2013 at 12:43 PM

      maybe we all should just pup the breaks and see who is holding the trophy when its over

  19. jbeagles23 - Jun 13, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    Every team coasts at times. Hell the spurs straight up sit players durin the season. The heat have started slow in three straight games by running the offence through bosh He had 5 shots with 6 an a half to go in the first. Chris bosh is very talented however only shows heart and hustle when things are going good. Spo rotation of players sucks. If somebody is playing good let him ride it out

  20. dgbk - Jun 13, 2013 at 1:42 PM

    lebron goin ham tonight watch him drop 19 pts.

  21. 13arod - Jun 13, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    30 points 12 rebounds and 10 assists

    • cantonbound13 - Jun 13, 2013 at 3:15 PM

      How many games will it take him to reach those numbers? He has only scored more than 30 twice in 18 games in the finals. Your odds are not good.

  22. reedme16 - Jun 13, 2013 at 4:27 PM

    @cantonbound

    If you know basketball like you say you do then you know it’s about more than scoring. Jordan wanted to score everytime, Lebron wants to play smart basketball. The same things that people praise a team like the Spurs for is the same things used to try to diminish Lebrons legacy. So what Lebron is all hype because he is not better than Jordan? Well Jordan is the best player to ever play so not being equal to him doesn’t diminish that he is a great player. Jordan isn’t the minimum standard, he is the highest standard. You can’t call a player all hype that has gotten 4 MVPs and a championship before the age of 30! And all that he needed help to win is bogus because everyone needs help to win. Jordan never win without Pippen and Phil Jackson, who is arguably the greatest coach of all time. Jordan never made the Finals without Pippen or as young as Lebron. Lebron spent the first half of his career playing with DLeague players and he made them all look better than they ever have. You don’t have to think he is better than Jordan to acknowledge he is great. And with all that said remember Lebron is just entering his prime! Maybe we let him finish his career first. Because if you know basketball you Jamie that people were saying these same types of idiotic things about Jordan!

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