Same Ol’ Spurs — James Plays Passive, Now 0-5 in Finals vs S.A.
Posted by RichieZ23 on June 6, 2013
The narrative prior to Game 1 of the NBA Finals was how much LeBron James has evolved as a player. Six years ago, James was swept in the Finals by the Duncan-Parker-Ginobili led Spurs while James was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
With a more talented team via the Miami Heat, James can now get his revenge for 2007. LeBron is a completely different player since then. He is also a completely different player than in 2011, his first season in Miami that saw LeBron lose again in the Finals, this time to the Dallas Mavericks.
James finally broke though in 2012 as the Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder for his first championship.
But in Game 1 of the 2013 Finals, James played like the LeBron of old. Forget about his stat-stuffing triple double that many will point to. Sure, 18 points, 10 assists, and a ridiculous game-high 18 rebounds is nothing to sneeze at. It’s a career game for many. And while the Spurs played good defense on James, too often he was too passive with the ball in his hands.
Miami went into the 4th quarter with a three-point lead and a chance to win Game 1 at home in Miami. A key point was with 50 seconds remaining and Miami down 4. James got by his defender off a ball screen, and had 37 year-old Tim Duncan on his heels. Rather than going hard at Duncan and finishing at the rim with contact, he drew Duncan in and dished the ball out to Chris Bosh for an open 3-pointer.
While there certainly isn’t anything wrong with this play, LeBron cannot settle for this result next time. Chris Bosh has proven he can hit the three-ball. But it doesn’t matter how open he is if James is attacking the basket with Tim Duncan attempting to check him.
LeBron James is the best player in the world due largely in part that there are no weaknesses to his game. He can score inside and out. He can handle the rock. He is one of the best passers the league has ever seen. He can rebound, defend, and block shots.
But his greatness can at times be his biggest weakness. Passing the ball to Bosh for an open three is certainly not the wrong basketball play. It might even be the right play. Head coach Erik Spoelstra noted after the game that he would take those types of shots because they’re open. But he also conceded prior to, saying that they were probably open for a reason, echoing ESPN analyst Jalen Rose, who at halftime pleaded with Bosh to play closer to the basket by saying that he was open from deep for a reason.
Bosh is often the brunt of many jokes for his role in Miami’s “Big Three.” Missing wide-open 3’s in the NBA Finals will do nothing to stop those jokes from continuing.
But it does not excuse James for being as passive as he was. Bosh and Dwayne Wade were a combined 6-of-18 from the field in the 2nd half. A sense of attacking and taking over scoring the basketball should have resonated for James. Instead he ended up with a shiny triple double, and a Game 1 loss.
The defense can only dictate so much when you’re LeBron James. At some point the green light needs to click. He only attempted 16 shots, knocking down seven of them. But the real number is four. James only had four free throw attempts the entire game. When you present the mismatch challenge that James presents, four free throw attempts is unacceptable.
San Antonio did clog the lane and sag defenders in to help on James, begging LeBron to pass the ball. But there comes a point that he needs to dictate how the defense will play him, rather than allowing the defense to dictate to LeBron.
James had a very fine performance in Game 1, but will need to do more scoring for Miami to take home its second championship in the “Big Three” era.
And while James is a better player than his previous Finals appearances in 2007 and 2011, for Game 1 in 2013 Finals, his play looked more like his appearances in 2007 and 2011 than his 2013 postseason. It’s only one game, but in a seven game series, sometimes that one game is all you need.
LeBron James and the Miami Heat are hoping that Game 1 doesn’t end up being the one that got away.