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2 posts from June 17, 2013

June 17, 2013

LeBron's shooting plunges, Heat, NBA Finals notes

Some Heat and Spurs chatter as we await Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night:

Since the NBA introduced the 3-point shot in 1979-1980, no starting small forward with any kind of three-point element to his game has ever shot a higher percentage than LeBron James did this season.

But that deft touch has deserted James during four of the five games in these NBA Finals. Even shots in the basket area were a struggle in Game 5.

James’ 43.6 percent shooting in this series is surprising, considering he made 56.5 percent of his shots during the regular season – remarkable for a non-center.

In fact, no starting small forward who made more than two three-pointers in a season ever shot as high a percentage as James did this season. Chris Mullin was closest, at 55.3 percent in 1996-97.

But aside from his exemplary 15 for 25 performance in Game 4, James has been inefficient offensively. He shot 7 for 16 in Game 1, 7 for 17 in Game 2, 7 for 21 in Game 3 and 8 for 22 in Game 5.

Not only did James shoot just 2 for 11 in the second half Sunday, but he finished the game 5 for 15 on shots in the paint.

“I think between the two of us, we probably missed 12 layups,” James said of himself and Dwyane Wade. “I missed a lob. I missed two layups, in transition on the same possession. Those are shots we make.”

James shot 1 for 8 Sunday when defended by Boris Diaw, whose length seemed to give him some problems. Conversely, James was 7 for 14 against all other defenders.

“Boris is a pretty good defender,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said. “It gives a different look for LeBron. He looks awkward, but he gets the job done. Every time in Europe he guards guys like that, the fours who can’t really moves” – though James moves just fine.

James’ perimeter shooting also has been erratic in this series. He shot a career-high 40.6 percent on three-pointers this season but has hit just 6 of 19 in the Finals (31.6 percent).

His overall shooting percentage in this series is worse than his 47.8 percent accuracy in the 2011 Finals loss to Dallas. James is averaging 21.6 points in this series, compared with 17.8 in the 2011 Finals and 28.6 in the 2012 Finals.


Both teams were off Monday, but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was non-committal when asked Sunday night whether he would stick with Mike Miller as a starter for a third game in a row or go back to Udonis Haslem. For the second consecutive game, Miller went scoreless on 0-for-1 shooting on Sunday.

ABC’s Magic Johnson implored Spoelstra to resume using forward/center Chris Andersen, who did not play in either of the past two games.

“They’re going to [need] some energy,” Johnson said. “And only one guy can provide that – Chris Andersen. He needs minutes.”

The Heat was outscored by 20 points in Haslem’s nine minutes off the bench in Game 5. But the Heat outscored the Spurs by seven when Chris Bosh was in the game.

### Without elaborating, Dwyane Wade said “a small” adjustment will be needed in the Heat’s strategic approach in Game 6.

“Just like the adjustment they made with throwing more isolations at Tony Parker,” Wade said. “Didn’t necessarily win the game, but it helped. It changed things.”

### The Spurs shot 60 percent in Game 5 – something no team had done against Miami in the regular season. (Detroit shot 58.1 percent in a win in December.)

“It’s pretty obvious that we didn’t give that same defensive effort that we had in Game 4 and they picked us apart,” Bosh said. “We had mental lapses early, we were cross-matched trying to run to our guys, and they got easy baskets. Defenses win championships. I hate to be cliché, but we can’t give up [114-plus] points.”

### The Heat’s point guard play has deteriorated in the past week.

After an impressive showing earlier in postseason, Norris Cole has shot just 6 for 22 in the Finals.

And after his 19-point, no-turnover gem in Game 2, Mario Chalmers scored 13 points on 4 for 19 shooting in the past three games, with more turnovers (10) than assists (7).

“We haven’t been getting the same looks we had in Game 2,” Chalmers said.

### Ray Allen is 11 for 17 on three-pointers in this series after finishing 4 for 4 on Sunday.

With 45 career threes in the Finals, Allen surpassed Michael Jordan for fourth on the all-time list, behind Robert Horry (56) and Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher (48 apiece).

Allen also became the first player in NBA Finals history with two four-point plays in the same game.

### The Heat finished in the upper half of the league in three-point field goal percentage defense this season, but San Antonio’s Danny Green -- and to a lesser extent, Gary Neal – are tormenting Miami from beyond the three-point arc during these Finals.

The Spurs, who ranked fourth in three-point accuracy during the regular season, are shooting 44.2 percent on threes in this series. That’s well above the 35 percent that Miami allowed during the season, which ranked 11th.

Green is shooting an absurd 65.8 percent on threes (25 for 38) during this series, and Neal has made 12 of 24.

What’s more, the Spurs’ 50 three-pointers are just two short of the NBA Finals record for most threes in a series of any length. The Celtics hit 52 against the Lakers in 2008.

“Danny is playing great – I can’t believe he’s still open at this moment of the series,” point guard Tony Parker said. “They are still trapping me and doubling [Tim Duncan], and Danny is wide open.”

According to ESPN, 24 of Green’s 38 three-point attempts in the series have been open looks. Green has made 18 of 24 threes when he wasn’t tightly defended, and 7 of the 14 contested threes.

“Give him credit – he’s knocking them down,” Dwyane Wade said. “He’s also getting some stuff in transition. And he’s the beneficiary of Tony Parker’s penetration. We do have to do a better job, like we did in Game 4, of knowing where the shooters are at all times.”

Green already has broken the NBA record for most three-pointers in a Finals and stands just three short of equaling the overall record for most three-pointers in a playoff series of any length. That mark is held by the Heat’s Ray Allen (for Milwaukee in 2001) and Dennis Scott (for Orlando in 1995).

“That will be something we have to correct,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Got to do it hard and be more committed. The open looks are the ones that are killing us.”

Green said he is surprised he’s getting some uncontested shots.

“Tony, Timmy and [Manu Ginobili] are doing a great job of sucking in the defense,” he said. “Right now, everything is working for me. I’m feeling truly blessed.”

### Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, asked if Green’s evolution as a player reminds him of former Heat and ex-Spurs forward Bruce Bowen: “They don’t really dribble or do anything. They just shoot it. So in that sense, they are kind of similar.”


Ginobili’s start for the Spurs in Game 5 was his first since the Western Conference Finals against Oklahoma City last June.

According to ESPN, this was the first time since Marcus Camby in 1999 that a player started in the Finals after not starting a game during the regular season.

“I had a better game, but I’m not sure it was just because I started,” said Ginobili, whose 24 points were just six short of his total for the first four games. “I attacked better, got to the free throw line a little more [eight times], and those things got me going.”

Duncan said Ginobili seemed “dejected” by his play earlier in the series. His 10 assists Sunday were the most by a Spurs player in this series.

### The Spurs are 14-2 in potential series-clinching games played on the road since the start of the 2002-03 postseason, according to ESPN. The rest of the NBA is 61-75 in that time span.

“We’ve been in situations like this,” Duncan said. “We’ve been together for a long time. I think every one of us wants this very badly from the top on down.”

### Kawhi Leonard said defending LeBron James has been “fun” and he doesn’t care in the least whether he has earned James’ respect.

### Among the things the Heat won’t miss about the AT&T Center: the irritating flies that exasperated Udonis Haslem and others during on-court media sessions.

Notes, quotes, postscripts from Heat's Game 5 loss

Notes, quotes, postscripts from the Heat's 114-104 Game 5 NBA Finals loss to the Spurs:   

### So this is what happens when your MVP shoots 2 for 11 in the second half, when your point guard play is abysmal, when your defensive rotations are off and when your championship-caliber opponent shoots 60 percent and buries you in an avalanche of threes.

And so a team that won 27 in a row a few months ago hasn’t been able to win two in a row in 12 straight. That obviously must change, and immediately, or there will be no championship defense.

### After closing to within one, the Heat ultimately was undone by a 19-1 Spurs run late in the third and early in the fourth. Miami cut the deficit to eight late, but drew no closer.

“They absolutely outplayed us,” Erik Spoelstra said. “At times they were just picking one guy out at a time and going mano y mano. That will change.”

### The highest shooting percentage Miami allowed during the regular season was 58.1 in a late December loss to Detroit. The Spurs topped that, shooting 42 for 70.

### Since the NBA went to a 2-3-2 Finals format in 1985, three teams won an NBA Finals after trailing 3-2 with Games 6 and 7 at home: the 1988 Lakers, 1994 Rockets and 2010 Lakers.

### Dwyane Wade’s take: “We dug ourselves in a deep hole very early. We felt this was a game we could steal, but they continued to make shots. Their starters played big tonight. They’re a great team. We’re a great team as well.

“We’re going to make another adjustment. It’s going to be very small. Just like tonight the adjustment they made was throwing more isolations at Tony Parker.  It didn’t necessarily win the ballgame, but it helped. It changed things.

“There were a lot of mental mistakes we made tonight. If we make those same mistakes again, it will be the same result. So we have to be more locked in from start to finish.”

### Wade, looking back to the 2011 Dallas series (when the Heat lost Game 5 in Texas and Game 6 in Miami): “We’ll challenge ourselves to see if we’re a better team than we were. We will see if we are a better ball club, better prepared for this moment… We’ll see which team, which style will prevail.”

### LeBron James’ take: “We can’t worry about a Game 7. We have to worry about a Game 6. I have to come up big, for sure, in Game 6…. We’re not playing well in the first quarter. We have to figure that out. We look forward to the challenge. We’ve been here before. We have an opportunity to do something special. We look forward to it.”

### James and Wade each scored 25 points in Game 5, but the perception of their nights differed, and justifiably so.

Wade was the more efficient player Sunday, dishing out 10 assists and finishing 10 for 22 from the field, with two blocks, a steal and four rebounds.

James, meantime, had a nightmarish second half, shooting 2 for 11 and closing 8 for 22 from the field. And in the first half, he didn’t make his usual impact in other facets of the game, going to halftime with one assist and no rebounds or steals.

### Chris Bosh managed just six points and one rebound in the second half, and overall, Tim Duncan outscored him (17 to 16) and out-rebounded him (12 to 6).

The Big Three’s combined scoring total of 66 points was 19 off their output in Game 4. And unlike Game 4, none of the three could make enough of an imprint on this game defensively, each victimized at various times.

“Everyone was taking turns breaking down our defense,” Spoelstra said. “Offensively, we weren’t very efficient.”

Danny Green, defended part of the game by Wade, scored 24, and James – who guarded an assortment of players – didn’t play at the level that allowed him to finish second in Defensive Player of the Year balloting.

“This is the kind of team that capitalizes on any mistake you make,” Wade said. “Danny Green is making shots – give him credit. We have to do a better job of knowing where their shooters are at all times. He got away from us a few times.”

### James’ biggest issue was his offensive inefficiency, surprising for a player that shot a career-high 56.5 percent this season.

He missed 8 of 9 shots during a lengthy stretch covering the entire third quarter and much of the fourth, including three misses – a 12-footer, a 5-footer and a layup -- during the Spurs’ 19-1 run to end the third and start the fourth.

Boris Diaw did an especially effective job defending James. LeBron shot 1 for 8 with Diaw guarding him, 7 for 14 against all other defenders.

### After making a three-pointer 43 seconds into the second half, James didn’t hit another shot until a layup with 3:27 left in the game, and the Heat down 17. His misses included – among others -- two threes, a layup and a two other shots from short range.

And after the Heat cut the Spurs’ lead to 11 soon after, James was called for a foul on a moving screen, negating a Ray Allen three-pointer with 2:23 left.

That epitomized a frustrating night for James that included three missed layups, an airball on a four-footer, an inability to convert an alley-oop from Mario Chalmers (the pass was hardly perfect) and not a single rebound in the first half.

This was especially disappointing: James came up empty during both of the Spurs’ monster runs -- both the 19-1 second-half burst and a 22-7 first-half spurt, during which James shot 0 for 3.

James had only one dominant stretch in the game, and it was too brief: a nine-point tear late in the first half. He finished with eight assists, six rebounds and four steals, but also three turnovers.

“I missed a lob, I missed two layups in the same possession,” James said. “D-Wade missed a couple of layups. Those we aren’t worried about. Those are shots we normally make.”

### As for Bosh, he took only three shots in the second half, making all of them, but didn’t assert himself on the boards, or defensively, like he did in Game 4.

Unlike earlier in the playoffs, he did most of damage in the paint. Five of his seven baskets were layups, put-backs or dunks, and another was a three footer. His other was on a hook shot.

### According to ESPN, the Heat shot 39.2 percent on drives to the basket – including 4 for 12 from James and Wade.

### With six three-pointers, Green broke Ray Allen’s previous record for most three-pointers in an NBA Finals.

“That will be something we have to correct,” Spoelstra said. “We just got to do it better, got to do it harder, be more committed. He’s getting some open looks, and he’s making some contested looks. But the open looks are the ones that are killing us.”

Green has 25 threes in this series – just three fewer than his total in the first three rounds combined.

### Allen, by the way, scored 21 points in 30 minutes, making all four of his three-pointers.

### Every Spurs starter scored between 16 and 26. Manu Ginobili, making his first start since the Western Conference Finals, scored 24 – after scoring 30 in the first four games.

He’s the first player to start a game in the Finals, after not starting a game all season, since Marcus Camby in 1999.