The Miami Heat losing by 36 points becomes one of the more lopsided losses in NBA finals history. How bad? Only twice has game ended in a wider margin: In 1998, when the Bulls beat the Utah Jazz by 42 points, and in 2008, when the Celtics beat the Lakers by 39 points.
Most of the bad numbers can be attributed personally to James, having one of the worst games and series of his career. But looking at how well the Spurs shot the ball tells us of how bad the Heat’s defense was. They allowed San Antonio to score 113 points, more than anyone has managed against them in this postseason, and only the second time anyone has scored over 100 points against them in the playoffs. The last time they’ve conceded this many points was in a 141-129 win over the Sacramento Kings (February 26).
The Spurs hit 16 three pointers, more than anyone has ever done in the NBA finals, hitting 50% of their shots. Meanwhile, the Heat didn’t shoot too terribly (40.8% from the field, we’ve seen worst), but they couldn’t get to the line (only 7-of-10). It was also the second time in this postseason they’ve scored only 77 points, following their 14 point loss in Indiana in game 6.
Things look especially bad when it comes to James. Three games into the series, LeBron James is shooting just 38.9% from the field. Out of the 30 players to win the regular season MVP and appear in the NBA finals, that is the worst shooting percentage for an MVP & finalist since the 1950s, when Bill Russell shot 34.7% from the field in 1958 and Bob Cousy shot 31.8% from the field in 1957.
James’ isolation player are terrible so far, and it’s clear that when he stops thinking of how to figure out the Spurs’ defense, things go downhill for the Spurs. He averaged 1.02 points per isolation play in the first 3 series, but has been shooting only 28.6% from the field on these plays against the Spurs, including o-for-6 in game 3, which was 28.5% of his offensive attempts.
Driving to the basket has also been terrible for James, missing all four attempts and not being able to draw a foul through driving to the basket in game 3. So far in the finals he’s averaging 3.6 less driving attempts than in the Eastern finals, and shooting just 30% on such plays, compared with 50% in the Eastern finals.
As a result of the Spurs’ defense, he tried too much from the outside, shooting only 2-of-14 from outside the paint, making it a terrible 7-of-30 for him so far in the Finals, with the Spurs doing a great job in keeping him away from the basket.
During LeBron’s 39 minutes on the floor, the Spurs outscored the Miami Heat by 32 points. That is the worst +/- of James’ career including the regular season, where he’s had a couple of -30 games.