Blog Entry

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

Posted on: June 8, 2011 1:58 am
Edited on: June 8, 2011 5:58 am

Miami Heat forward LeBron James disappears in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Posted by Ben Golliver


DALLAS – Shrinking implies attendance. To shrink, one must first show up.

To say that Miami Heat forward LeBron James shrunk in Game 4 of the 2011 NBA Finals would be inaccurate. To say that he was invisible, absent and inconsequential in an 86-83 loss to the Dallas Mavericks would be closer to the truth. To pin the fact that the Finals series now stands at two games apiece on his shoulders is not only fair, it's unavoidable.

After stating Thursday morning that he was “starting to taste” his first NBA title, James -- the NBA’s most dominant force playing in the most important game of his career -- had the worst game of his season and made the smallest offensive impact of his playoff career.

He declared earlier this week that no single Mavericks player -- nor any single player in the league -- could guard him. He promised that he would be in “attack mode.” He scolded a columnist who questioned his late-game performance in Game 3 for focusing too much on the box score. He lauded his own defensive abilities and reminded everyone to check the tape.

And then he came out, played 45 minutes and laid the egg of his life.

James finished with eight points, nine rebounds, seven assists and four turnovers. His eight points marked the first time he has failed to score in double digits in 90 career playoff games. He finished with less than half of his regular season low point total: 17. He shot just 3-for-11 from the field, making just one field goal that wasn’t a dunk.

In the fourth quarter, James scored zero points, and had more turnovers (2) than field goal attempts (1). The last points he scored came with 1:17 left in the third quarter. He didn't take a shot in the game's final two minutes and, on the final possession, the Heat's fate rested in an errant jumpshot by reserve forward Mike Miller

“Definitely didn’t play great offensively,” James said, delivering the understatement of the playoffs. “I got to do a better job of being more assertive offensively, not staying out of rhythm offensively the whole game.”

Content to dribble around the perimeter, hide off the ball and defer to both Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, plus Miami’s role players, it was a performance unlike any we’ve seen from James this season.

“He struggled,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “Point blank, period. He struggled out there.”

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra attempted to fall on the sword, trying to shoulder some of the burden for his massive small forward.

“We’ll have to look at the film,” Spoelstra said. “Obviously we would like to get him involved. He’s a very important piece to what we do. So we’ll work to help make it easier for him next game.”

The performance was so out of character that Spoelstra was asked directly whether there was something wrong with James.

“He’s physically fine,” Spoelstra said.

Rather than serving as reassurance, the words inadvertently hinted at a more serious, problematic explanation. If there’s no physical ailment, then surely the malady must be mental?

To James’ credit, and to the surprise of some whispering reporters, James didn’t duck out of his postgame press conference, showing up to face the music. Once he sat down, looking composed in a green suit, but clearly dejected, reporters openly questioned his confidence level.

“I’m confident with my ability,” James maintained. “It’s about going out there and knocking them down.”

The performance was as confusing as it was shocking, leaving both James and those tasked with stopping him unsure why he performed so far below par. James said it wasn’t because of any new defensive looks that Dallas was throwing at him.

“They haven’t changed their coverages on me,” James said. “Me just being more assertive, that’s what it’s about.”

The Mavericks did switch their starting lineup by inserting J.J. Barea for DeShawn Stevenson, which did impact the players who were guarding James slightly. Stevenson was in the game late, drawing the assignment on James along with his usual matchup: Shawn Marion.

"I don't know,” Stevenson said when asked to explain James’ night. “He's a great player. I don't know why he's struggling.

"That's not him. Cleveland days, he was attacking.”

 Marion, who James said over the weekend couldn’t guard him one-on-one, was happy to claim the credit.

“We did a great job,” Marion said. “I think our defense has been working pretty well. We just have to make him take tough shots. You keep him from getting those transition breaks and breakaways, and having to take tough fadeaways.”

“Phenomenal,” guard Jason Terry said of Marion’s defense. “[James is] having to facilitate a lot of times for his teammates and get them involved. But we’re just trying to get our hands up, distract him a little bit and when he puts his second hand on the ball, we’re trying to be there to distract him.

James would only point specifically to his inability to make better use of his touches in the low post.

“I got the ball in the post a few times, and I [saw] double teams,” James lamented. “I can’t let that stop my aggression when they bring two to the ball. I still got to make plays for my team, but also make plays for myself to keep me in the rhythm of the game.”

If the night left him without explanations, it also left him upset.

James said that he was most angry because it happened in a loss. “That’s all that matters to me," he said. "If I had had eight points and we won the game, I could be satisfied."

As he departed, James offered a promise: “I’ll come back in Game 5 and do the things that need to be done to help our team win.”  

All week, and especially in the aftermath of the Game 3 criticism, those traveling with the Heat have marveled at James’ ability to resist folding under the immense pressure. On Tuesday night, he didn't fold, he burst.

The rest of this Finals series will hinge on whether he can put the pieces back together.


Since: Feb 18, 2011
Posted on: June 8, 2011 12:48 pm

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

To everyone saying this is the Heat's series to lose, from what I'm watching Dallas is getting a lot of wide open shots and just aren't making them. They have not yet had a game where they were hot. If Dallas gets back to shooting even remotely close to how they shot against L.A. then this series is over. Last night Dallas should have won going away.

Since: Jan 20, 2010
Posted on: June 8, 2011 12:39 pm

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

The problem with the Heat and Lebron, is they have no plays, it's all one on one basketball. Another problem, D Wade is going for finals MVP, and Lebron doesn't want to get in his way. It's funny in the eastern conference finals when D Wade was struggling no one jumped all over him, if he was as good of a teamate as he believes he is he would allow Lebron to get into the flow of the game.

DWade and Lebron can only operate with the ball in their hands, watch the game when DWade has the  ball Lebron looks lost. Also I believe since Lebron was carrying the Heat thru the playoffs he's probably worn down. Or maybe Lebrons jealous that Dwade got off to a great start and has almost locked up the finals MVP.

Since: Jan 5, 2007
Posted on: June 8, 2011 12:27 pm

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

Brian in FL I agree with you 100%.  Miami could and should be Champions right now.  This is the Miami Heats series to lose.  If the Mavs win this series then they would have earned it ONLY because the Heat lost the series. 

Since: Sep 15, 2006
Posted on: June 8, 2011 12:03 pm

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

Yeah, I wish this loser would disappear out of the NBA.  He promised the people of Cleveland that he would not stop until he brought a championship to the city.  Then he forgets his promise, breaks his word, and leaves his fans, teammates, and the city, the first chance he gets.  "Dung Boy" James may have a better chance at a ring, but in the process he lost millions of fans who now hate his guts!  Personally, I am rooting for a career ending injury.  Wouldn't it be a hoot if he was coming down the sideline, accelerating for a fast break, and slips on the very same chalk he threw in the air to start the game, suffering a career ending injury.  This would be a great and fitting example of karmic payback!

Since: May 27, 2011
Posted on: June 8, 2011 11:22 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

I am an avid Heat fan. We would not have gotten to the Finals without LeBron.

HOWEVER...this is a recipe for disaster for the Heat. Some stats for LeBron in this series:

Last night 4th quarter - 0 points, ONE shot (are you frickin' kidding me!!!??)

For the series in the 4th quarter - 9 points in four games. NINE points!!!

For the series: 19 3 pt attempts, 14 free throw attempts. Huh!???

I give the Mavs defense credit here..whatever they are doing is working so far to a "T". If LeBron continues this 4th quarter disappearing act (on offense), the Heat will NOT win this series. I think that the combined  Mavs game plan / media scrutiny may have gotten into LeBron's head. EVERYONE (locally) was saying: "Watch out for LeBron in the 4th quarter tonight...he's going to shut everyone up". Well.....NO. If all the scrutiny (especially the Greg Doyel comments) didn't motivate him to have a monster game, what will!!??

Prediction :If LeBron doesn't have a monster game (including the 4th quarter!!) Thursday night, Heat will lose the game and eventually the series.

Since: Mar 24, 2008
Posted on: June 8, 2011 11:19 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

8 points Lebron!  You cannot be serious.  Lebron needs to post up Marion and any other defender sent his way from the Mavericks.  His refusal to post up is the main reason the Heat have struggled against zones this season.  If Lebron goes to the baseline, it gives Bosh more room at the top of the key, and opens lanes for Wade to drive.  Spoelstra may want to sit his Highness during the last 5 minutes of the 4th quarter if he can't get himself in gear.   This is the championships.  There is no room for pouting and not leaving it all on the floor. Fans and the media don't need to be fair.  Get out there and get it done.  He will not have to worry about nay sayers when he has the "belt."

Since: Feb 13, 2008
Posted on: June 8, 2011 10:42 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

Did you see the amazing acting effort LeFlop made in the first quarter?  Dribble around the defender and, if he gets in the way, grab the ball and jump out of bounds as if he pushed you.  Whistle!  Foul!

James expects this.  When defenders are ALLOWED TO STAY IN HIS WAY, he cannot operate.  So, he quits.

In this NBA Finals, the credo (since Game One when the Mavs weren't really allowed to get in the Big Three's way, anyway) has been, "Play On!"  Now, DeShawn Stephenson, The Matrix and J.Kidd are being allowed to actually defend against LeFlop and he doesn't know what to do.  He isn't conditioned to be able to deal with that kind of obstruction.  The NBA needs their superstars so they make sure the superstars are provided with golden paths to glory.

Dirk has always been the exception.  But, that's another story.

Final picture in Game Two:  D. Wade lying prostrate on the floor, hand on eye, pleading for a foul to be called.  It had to be called.  He is asking for it so it should be called.

Glaring picture in Game One:  Dirk takes the ball at the free throw line.  As he turns, he gets hacked on the arm.  As he dribbles toward the basket, he is pushed from behind.  As he drains the layup, Bosh hip checks him.  Of course, there weren't any fouls on the play - "Play On!" is the credo.

Glaring picture in Game Four:  Dirk takes the ball at the free throw line and turns on Haslet and drives for a layup.  Of course, he gets hacked across both arms, but drains the layup.



Something that's been ingrained into Dirk from Day One.

Something that's never been assigned to LeFlop, D. Wade or Bosh.

By the way... if the NBA had colluded to insure they got the better end of a deal, the players would have gone ballistic.  If the players do it (James/Wade/Bosh), I guess that's ok.

Since: Sep 10, 2007
Posted on: June 8, 2011 10:40 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

The next "expert" to compare James favorably to MJ should have a scarlet I (for idiot) put on his forehead

Since: Sep 10, 2007
Posted on: June 8, 2011 10:37 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

Content to dribble around the perimeter, hide off the ball and defer to both and , plus Miami’s role players, it was a performance unlike any we’ve seen from James this season - I thing they saw a few of those in Cleveland.

Since: Sep 16, 2009
Posted on: June 8, 2011 10:19 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

It's simple - LeBron can't handle the zone.  If you're a guy that's going to just be out there dribbling on the perimeter all day, then you're going to struggle.  He is a one-dimensional scorer, and I honestly don't see him doing great things in this series, unless Dallas gets tired and sloppy on defense. 

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