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: Oct 4, 2007
Posted on: June 8, 2011 10:02 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

As a Diehard Heat Fan, I watched angrily as how poorly Lebron played last night....did not attack the rim like he did in game 3, did not even go after rebounds like he normally does, committed some costly turnovers down the stretch, and even tough he got double teamed like he said in the press conference interview after the game, that had never stopped him before.....and remember he got a gift dunk from a Dwayne Wades steal, so withot that dunk, he would have only gotten 6 points on a game of this magnitude. Obviously as a fan, you want your team to win every game, but as bad as Lebron unexplicably played last night, I have to give credit to the Bench Players of the Dallas Mavericks....they came through and lifted their level of play on a night where treir leader was obviously not 100% and the result was a hard earned win and the series now even at 2 a piece with one more game at Dallas on Thursday.....I imagined what a great game that is going to be. I think Lebron will come back with a vengeance to redeem himself and we all know Wade is going to be himself and continue to play like the MVP of this prediction is Miami will win easily and go home with a 3-2 advantage. GO HEAT

Since: Sep 5, 2006
Posted on: June 8, 2011 9:53 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

i understand why this is a story, but i don't think it's much of a story. lebron is immature, even with all his playoff experience. his immaturity shined in all of his previous playoff appearances, and the game five quit last year against boston.

let's give a little credit to dallas here, because they have consistantly found ways to slow him down the entire season, also counting the two regular season matchups. everyone, including lebron, has built him up to be this unstoppable force. he isn't unstoppable. he's crazy talented, but not unstoppable. he says he can't be stopped one-on-one, cool. dallas isn't going to guard you one-on-one. they're going to play team defense.

everyone is foolish to think he's going to fade out of this series completely though. i fully expect him to bounce back, and play well in the next game. does it mean he'll score 30? no. i just think he'll show more aggression. perhaps it will help, and perhaps it will cause more disruption in miami's halfcourt offense. wasn't that the biggest question regarding the heat? all three stars are better with the ball in their hand. james is a solid passer, so you would think he'd be the best option. however, wade is better with the ball in his hand than he is as a catch and shoot. the thing that worked for boston's trio is that ray allen is an exceptional catch and shoot player. wade and james both play better with the dribble. it is what it is.

Since: Sep 27, 2006
Posted on: June 8, 2011 9:37 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

Is LeBron James the GCOAT (Greatest Choker Of All Time)?  I think all the comparisons to Michael Jordan can be flushed down the toilet.  Michael Jordan never scored in single digits in a playoff game, he never quit on his team (like LeChoke did last year), he never faked an elbow injury in a playoff series, and he never got swept in an NBA Finals series.  LeCrybaby has done all these and more.  While Dwyane Wade has stepped up and played like a legitimate superstar, LeWhiner has gone back to his familiar old routine of coming up short in the playoffs and making excuses.  Oh well, at least last night, when he turned the ball over several times, he didn't try to say he was crab dribbling.

Since: Jun 4, 2007
Posted on: June 8, 2011 9:34 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

I've seen this act before from LeQuitter.  Last nights performance resembled that of his effort against Boston last year.  Is it me, or does LeDouche have the look of a spoiled little kid, who was told by his little league coach to let the other have a turn?  My guess is, he was told after Game 2, not to be a ball hog and to play forward rather than point guard, so he is taking it to extremes by not shooting the ball.  Boy, is he showing them!  LeBallBag was right about one thing, they wont win 1 title, not 2, not 3 not 4, not 5, not 6.  They will win ZERO!!!  Karmas a bee-otch, aint it LeCryBaby?

Hate Boston&LA
Since: May 4, 2011
Posted on: June 8, 2011 9:22 am
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Sep 17, 2007
Posted on: June 8, 2011 9:20 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

Vic...I agree with you but I don't think Spoelestra has much choice here.  A guy on Espn radio (basketball analyst) and I can't remember which one said that Riley is at every practice.  He is in Spoelestra's ear all the time about what he should be doing.  He doesn't have the the NBA street cred yet to tell Riley to shut up.  He is merely listening to his boss.  Now if they win one he gets a bit more credibility.  He is now a coach with a championship and the ability to handle stars.  I think Spoelestra has needed Riley.  I think behind closed doors Riley has helped Spoelestra deal with many of the ego problems the Heat had early(remember teh shoulder bump) Guarantee Riley was vital to toning that down.  But there comes a time when Eric Spoelestra needs to become his own man and his own coach.  But I thing we are seeing Spoelestra mature into a very good head coach.  THis type of experience will do this to a person.  It will make you grow up real fast.  He has to be tough and strong to deal with the egos he has.  Great players have great egos.  As the years go on Spoelestra will either need to tell Riley to back off or go find a new job where he can work his style and system without Riley's shadow over him. Tough situation but the bird must leave the nest at some point

Since: Mar 17, 2008
Posted on: June 8, 2011 9:19 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

maybe he left his talents in Miami  ?

Since: Aug 23, 2007
Posted on: June 8, 2011 9:17 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears


It's not the going to college that he needs, it's the mentorship, guidance and mental toughness he is lacking.  Who's to say if he would have been a one and done player if he was under the right coach?  Wade and Jordan stayed in college. 

Since: Oct 8, 2007
Posted on: June 8, 2011 9:15 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

Does Spoelstra actually do anything?  I mean he just does not seem like an Xs and Os kind of coach.  The only thing I have seen him do, is give pep talks and signal how many seconds remain on the shot clock.  I have a feeling that he is just a puppet for the true coach, Pat Riley.

Since: Oct 8, 2007
Posted on: June 8, 2011 9:13 am

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

I would like to point out that MJ NEVER had a single digit points game in any of his 179 playoff games.  Lebron has played half as many games and now has 1 single digit game.  In fact in these Finals, Lebron's points scored have dropped every game, so one could expect 6 or fewer point in game 5.

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