It seems that no matter what happens, LeBron James is faced with these challenges to prove he’s worthy of the greatness and immortality awaiting him once he retires from the NBA. The next one? Picking up the Miami Heat from their worst postseason performance in the Big Three era, and try to avoid a knockout blow in game 4 of the NBA finals.
Because if the Heat don’t rebound well from their 113-77 loss and drop to 1-3, it seems almost impossible for them to comeback, although it has been done in the past, but that’s quite a rarity in the NBA. And the first order of business isn’t figuring out how to get stops, because even though the defense was far from its best, allowing the San Antonio Spurs to hit 16 three-pointers, there were plenty of shots Danny Green and Gary Neal took that wouldn’t go in on any other day.
The San Antonio Spurs are guarding LeBron James with 5 players, as Tim Duncan has mentioned. Gregg Popovich, never a big fan of interviews, doesn’t want to talk about his methods and instructions to stop James, but whatever they are, they’re working. It seems like there’s a ceiling as to how much the Heat are going to get out of their players not named James, which means that he can’t carry on scoring only 16.7 points per game while shooting 38.9% from the field.
Dwyane Wade is shooting a little better than James, but he’s facing a different problem. The Spurs’ zone defense isn’t really focused on stopping Wade, because just like in the Indiana series, they have the guys (Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard rotating on Wade and James) who can stop Wade in one on one situations. There’s no consistent threat for Wade to break away into the paint, and it seems all the points he’s getting (14.3 per game on 44.2% from the field), while reaching the line only 2.7 times a night, are tough ones, the Spurs can live with him getting.
Chris Bosh isn’t doing much better. At the moment, Bosh, an 8-time NBA All-Star, is nothing more than a jump shooter, at least on offense. He doesn’t get near the basket as much as he should, and limits most of his attempts to mid-range jumpers or even further away if Tim Duncan isn’t occupied with stopping James from driving into the paint. Bosh is averaging 12.3 points on 44.4% from the field.
So where does this change for the Heat? Defense has to create turnovers in the same way it did in game 2. The pressure on the pick & rolls has to come from the big men, which created a lot of problems for Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in the second game. That was hardly seen in game 3, with the Heat once again resorted to chasing players around in what looked like a non-plan scheme on defense, eventually leading to complete breakdown.
On offense, for some reason they stayed away from the screens that worked so well for Mario Chalmers in game 2. Chalmers was terrible in game 3, scoring 0 points on 0-5 from the field, turning the ball over four times. But the Heat don’t have too many weapons in terms of guys who can force the Spurs to change their defense instead of just spreading out and counting on the Heat to miss three pointers. The Heat need to work harder for Chalmers or Wade to drive into the paint, which will allow more freedom for LeBron James.
Just like Game 2 was a must-win, game 4 is no different. LeBron James looks too much like the guy who couldn’t figure out what to do against the stacked paint the Dallas Mavericks put in front of him in 2011, which really shouldn’t be that much of a deterrent for him anymore. Attacking Tim Duncan at every opportunity and start to pin some fouls on him has to be one of his main goals, and other players as well, in order to break the status quo and force the Spurs to play a little bit differently on defense.