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What's wrong with LeBron James? ESPN Insider

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#1 DWarner4



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Posted 13 June 2013 - 02:23 PM

What's wrong with LeBron James?
Updated: June 12, 2013, 4:37 PM ET
By Kevin Pelton | ESPN Insider
In Tuesday's Game 3 of the NBA Finals, Gary Neal of the San Antonio Spurs had a "podium game" -- an unexpected appearance in the postgame news conference by a role player.
LeBron James had the opposite. Somehow, after scoring 15 points on 7-of-21 shooting in a blowout loss, the league's reigning MVP and Finals MVP wasn't among the Miami Heat players who were brought out to speak to the media.
Clearly, James is off his game. Does that say more about him or the Spurs' defense? Let's take a look at the numbers.
The signs of trouble
The James we've seen in the Finals is very different from the version who led the Heat to a 66-16 record and an Eastern Conference title. James has scored a combined 50 points in the past three games, his lowest three-game stretch of the season. Just twice -- centered on back-to-back games in mid-March in which he combined for 28 points -- had James been held to fewer than 60 points over a three-game stretch this season.
Even when James has slumped as a scorer, rarely has it lasted this long. The last time he was held to fewer than 20 points in three consecutive games was another NBA Finals matchup with a team from Texas -- 2011 against the Dallas Mavericks, when James totaled 42 points in Games 3-5 of the Heat's Finals loss.
Of course, looking at all three games does James a disservice. Through the first two games of the series in Miami, he was making the right plays against a San Antonio defense designed to keep him out of the paint, as reflected by his combined 17 assists. With the glaring exception of the fourth quarter of Game 1, Miami was happy with the results. The attention the Spurs placed on James opened things up for his teammates.
Something different happened in Game 3, particularly after halftime. James handed out five assists, just one of them after halftime -- and that set up a Chris Bosh midrange jumper, not the high-percentage 3-pointers and finishes at the rim the Heat count on him to create.
At the same time, James was less efficient offensively. He shot 7-for-21 (.333) from the field, his third-lowest percentage in any game in 2012-13. Just twice before had James missed at least 14 shot attempts -- a 14-for-31 effort in a January loss at Boston and an 8-for-22 outing at Cleveland in March.
To that, add the incredible stat that James failed to reach the free throw line for the first time since December 2009. According to Basketball-Reference.com, James had been held without a foul shot eight times before in his career -- half of them during his rookie season.
When the inaccurate shooting is combined with the missing free throws, James' true shooting percentage during Game 3 (.357) was not only his worst of the season (previously .412 in a January loss at Portland) but also his worst since -- you guessed it -- the 2011 Finals, when his eight-point Game 4 produced a .312 true shooting percentage.
Diagnosing the problem
There are two factors in James' poor shooting numbers in this series: the types of shots he's getting and the rate at which he's hitting those shots.
We can assess the former by looking at the percentage of James' shots that have come from various spots on the floor, according to NBA.com/stats. By walling off the paint, San Antonio has taken the Indiana Pacers' effort to keep James away from the rim one step further. After taking 41.3 percent of his shots in the restricted area around the basket during the regular season, James got just 35 percent of his shots there in the Eastern Conference finals. During this series, that's all the way down to 28.3 percent.
On the rare occasions James has gotten to the rim -- often in transition -- he's actually making his attempts at a better rate than usual. James is 12-of-15 (.800) there in this series, superior to his .750 accuracy around the basket in the regular season. But because James is so much better at the rim than anywhere else on the floor, limiting his attempts is more important than cutting down on his percentage.
The extra shots have been shifted outside, although maybe not as far as you think. More than any other spot, James has increased his attempts from inside the paint but outside the restricted area. (Surprisingly, James didn't take more of these shots than usual against Roy Hibbert and the Pacers.) Despite their relative closeness, those aren't usually great shots; James made them at an even 50 percent clip during the regular season. He's also taking slightly more 3-pointers and midrange jumpers.
If James were making these same shots at his regular-season rates, he would be shooting 51.9 percent from the field in this series -- down from his 56.4 percent mark from the regular season but also far better than the 38.9 percent he's actually shooting.
That analysis suggests the bigger problem for James is shot making, not the shots he's taking. Besides the rim area, James has been less accurate from every location on the court in the Finals than during the regular season.
Location RS FGA% Finals FGA% RS FG% Finals FG%
Restricted area .413 .283 .750 .800
Paint (non-RA) .102 .170 .500 .222
Midrange .298 .321 .432 .235
3-pointers .188 .227 .406 .250
At this point, the explanation starts to become more of a guessing game. If the Spurs are giving James open midrange jumpers by playing off him defensively and going under screens, why would he make them at a lower rate than he usually does against more defensive pressure?
Part of the issue might be that James is making these plays off the dribble or from a standstill rather than in the flow of the offense. None of the six makes he has from between the restricted area and the 3-point line has come off a catch-and-shoot situation. Then again, based on his regular-season rates, only one of those shots would have been set up by an assist. So this difference is probably not meaningful.
Teammate Dwyane Wade pointed out after the game that San Antonio's strategy may be causing James to second-guess himself.
"Their defensive scheme, it's to go under a lot of the pick-and-rolls, to play off a lot," Wade said. "And when they do that, you have the shot most of the time. So it takes away some of your aggressiveness at times, because you have the shot that you can make in your sleep and you're like, 'I'm going to shoot it,' and then it don't go in. But you have to keep shooting it."
For a player of James' caliber, continuing to shoot when open is the only choice. Miami has to hope that his shots go in at their usual rate starting in Game 4.
Kevin Pelton
Co-author, Pro Basketball Prospectus 


#2 El Bee Jay

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 02:58 PM

He's letting the other team and the media get in his head.




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Posted 13 June 2013 - 05:01 PM


#4 BigSmail


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Posted 13 June 2013 - 06:41 PM


Until he starts doing his part, then he can start asking for help. 

#5 BigSmail


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Posted 18 June 2013 - 07:39 AM

Forget him he's just Spurs or bitter Cleveland  trolling. Miami big 3 needs to just do a better job getting everyone involved not relying too heavily on one player as much and a better job at sharing the ball handling a bit. Less bad possession plays in general.


Plus I think Miami has to stop trying to double team so much and live with the results a little bit more on isolation defense plays at times because it seems like that's giving us more problems then it's taking away arguably.


Ginobili and Parker are both good passers and can attack and drive well They are punishing us on the drive and kick out though the way Spurs shooting this series from 3PT line Green and Neal alike though Green to his credit has been unbelievable both open and contested from all over 3PT line.

Totally agree about Parker and Ginobili, the way they carry on their offense has really damaged our defense, Green has just been in rhythm all series, we've put a hand in his face, he's been two feet away from the arc, it still didn't matter to him, I just think we have to live with him making those threes.
We have not lost yet, if LeBron and Wade play like they did in game 4, if they can reestablish their on court chemistry for a full 48 minute action, we'll get it.
I'm sure that LeBron will play a lot better, he's not happy with himself neither, I excepct him to come up aggressive tonight.

#6 schizo


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Posted 18 June 2013 - 08:23 AM


#7 Guest_magicmike_*

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 10:53 AM

  Elimination time? Not so fast. LeBron James is averaging 31.5 ppg in games in which his team faced playoff elimination, the highest such average for any player in NBA history (min: 5 games). 

Game 6 - tonight at 9pm ET on ABC.

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 10:55 AM

Until he starts doing his part, then he can start asking for help. 


LeBron has been: #1 in points in this series, #2 in rebounds (behind Duncan), #1 in assists (1 more than TP), #2 in blocks.


I think that's fair enough that he gets some EFFIN help!

#9 heatphin4lyfe


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Posted 18 June 2013 - 11:03 AM

He'll be better tonight, he has to be...TEAM HEAT since '88!

#10 BigSmail


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Posted 18 June 2013 - 11:45 AM

LeBron has been: #1 in points in this series, #2 in rebounds (behind Duncan), #1 in assists (1 more than TP), #2 in blocks.


I think that's fair enough that he gets some EFFIN help!

You're right I give you that, but allow me to remind you some things about LeBron James :  averaged 26 8 and 7 during the regular season, and 29, 7 and 5 in the conference finals, he was the only player who showed up against the Pacers before game 7, he single handedly carried us throughout that series, and now in the finals he has been held  under 20 for three consecutive games including that game 3 disaster, went cold in the second half of last night shooting just 2 of 11, missed several fastbreak points which he usually makes plus he shot 43% from the field, and here we are down 2-3 in the finals, I mean c'mon now, LeBron shot 56% in the regular season and 51% in the conference finals. 
Yes LeBron is number one in scoring with 21.6 is that all he can do? absolutly not, I don't care if LeBron ranks first in the three categories you've stated in your comment because the bottom line is, everyone knows he can be better than this, if this is actually all what he can do we wouldn't be in the finals in the first place.
I don't mean to discredit LeBron's game, I'm just disappointed because he's with no question the best player but he hasn't shown that in no way, I mean did he even looked like an MVP so far? hell no.
But I'm still sticking with my point in which I said  it ain't done yet, I expect a strong performance from him tonight, at least I hope so.

#11 weonfya



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Posted 19 June 2013 - 09:08 AM

Don't care shut up troll elsewhere he's been getting it more to the picture then this team game.


Watch Da Haters Hate

#12 ZoMourningJr



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Posted 19 June 2013 - 10:34 AM

It was the damn headband... I guess it blocked the blood circulation to the brain or something (Sarcasm! - so no one attacks this post like mad dogs!!!).... Maybe that should be his new routine.... When things go south, he can ditch the headband, and dominate the game....


LBJ, start with the headband, finish without it....