No one’s saying that LeBron James is having a bad postseason. He’s been doing most of what the Miami Heat have been needing him to on both ends of the floor, but with their rivals not fading away in awe of the NBA champions, it’s time for the best player in the league to deliver one of those huge games he had quite a few of in last year’s playoffs to create the separation needed to reach the finals.
When you look back at the games the Heat lost and the Pacers lost in this series so far (2 a piece), you’ll probably end up, after some calculations, that the Heat have missed more opportunities to win a game more or two, specifically in game 4. It’s not that they haven’t played to their best ability in the previous one just because they were bad – the Indiana Pacers made the right adjustments, forcing James to pass more and more, while he chose to take some bad shots in the post without having the one on one advantage from game 3, but you felt the Heat made more mistakes, unforced errors as they’re called in Tennis, in crunch time.
Some of it was bad officiating, like Dwyane Wade not travelling or LeBron James called for a sixth foul that, was, well, quite soft, especially for an offensive foul. But while Joey Crawford is making mistakes that hurt and favor each side in it’s turn in another nightmarish officiating performance, the Heat have other things to worry about. And after four games of each head coach making adjustments after a loss, it’s time that the individual quality the Miami Heat have starts showing, and there’s no one better to do that but James.
James began the series with a triple double of 30-10-10, followed by 36 points in the game 2 loss. But from trying to stop his teammates and letting James do most of the damage, the Pacers have shifted focus and stopped letting the role players hit open shots once they proved they can. They trapped and double teamed James early in possessions, and forced the ball out of his hands. Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen took a combined 42 shots, while Chris Bosh took only 6. Something needs to change in that distribution.
Something the Heat should try is not giving the ball to James too early in a possession, although not with the tactic of having him hide in the corner. He needs a screen or two to be set for him, maybe by Haslem and Bosh, in order to start creating some confusion in the Pacers defense, who haven’t seen a lot of off-the-ball screens for James in this series, and in the aftermath might have to deal with open shots from dangerous mid-range jumpers.
But beyond tactics, and as we’ve said we’ve seen plenty of adjustments, it’s about James shifting gears. It is about him not spending too much time guarding West and Hibbert on defense, with the Heat needing to start trying a little bit of zone defense, or the closest thing possible to it, and try and force the Pacers, during certain minutes, to win the game from outside. James needs his energy, especially late in the game, and with him playing his best basketball, at this stage of the series, after the teams have already traded each other their best shots from a coaching perspective, the Heat should have an advantage the Pacers won’t be able to match.