Through the first two games of the NBA finals, LeBron James has averaged 17.5 points, 13 rebounds and 8.5 assists, in two games that weren’t that different on the stat sheet for him individually, but looked completely different on the floor and in the end result, giving the Miami Heat quite a lot of confidence heading towards three straight road games.
Because the moment the Heat were able to get on the open floor, it seemed the San Antonio Spurs were out of ideas. Miami forced 17 turnovers, including three steals by James, and scored 19 points off of them, compared to only 9 points off of 4 turnovers the Spurs committed in game 1. As wise men have pointed out before, James might be the most unstoppable player in NBA history when it comes to running the fast break, and the moment the Heat’s defense gets in its groove and intensity mode, it’s very hard beating the NBA champions.
So LeBron James finds himself facing a Spurs team that isn’t going to let him beat them. They’ll want Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen, Chris Bosh, Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem to do it. And while James might be disappointing some fans or haters by not scoring the amount of points he pulled off in last years’ finals, as long as he’s able to influence the game, even if it means shooting only 42.4% from the field, on almost every play, it’s something the Miami Heat can live with.
They can even live with Dwyane Wade making those claiming he’s older and way over the top look quite right. Wade is averaging 13.5 points on 42.9% from the field in the finals so far, and it looked like his role in the game 2 win was the least important, as the Heat went on their game-ending run of 33-5 without him on the floor. Wade is struggling to beat Danny Green or Leonard off the dribble, and without him hitting open shots, there are actually times when he’s a liability, and it’s simply better to rest his aching knees.
Chris Bosh? He’s not on the floor to score 25-30 points, although it’s something he can do if the Heat play more on him. But his role is to hit the open shots he gets, and drawing Tim Duncan away from the basket. The Heat were very aggressive in their drives to the basket in game 2, which forced Duncan to give Bosh more space in the series opener. Suddenly, Bosh didn’t have to shoot three pointers, but take jumpers from where he’s comfortable with, scoring 12 points on 60% from the field, a sharp contrast to the combined 9-of-29 he had from his previous two games.
Do the Heat’s big three have a 60-70 points game in them? Probably, although we’ve hardly seen anything like that in these playoffs, which have been more about James getting more and more of the offensive focus, while the responsibility of filling in the points falls on Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen and Mike Miller, getting more and more minutes instead of Shane Battier, playing only 5.8 minutes a night over the last five games. You can say it has to do with his shooting (only 12.5% from the field), but Battier doesn’t fit the positions from which the Heat are trying to get their players to shoot from.
James is going to have bigger games than his 17 and 18 point efforts, although game 2 was huge for him for more than just the overrated block on Tiago Splitter. For what he did on defense in terms of pressure and being in the right place at the right time, and setting up Mario Chalmers again and again, helping him score those 19 points. Eventually, it’ll come down to him having a big night or at least trying to, while not forgetting to not take it too far, and remember that despite being the most talented player on the court, making the role players around him better is what will win the series for the Heat.