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

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

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.

Posted on: June 8, 2011 1:48 am
Edited on: June 8, 2011 2:21 am

Was Dirk's Game 4 anywhere near the Flu Game?

Posted by Royce Young

It was an inevitability. As soon as word came out that Dirk Nowitzki was battling a triple-digit fever in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, you knew someone out there was going to connect the dots.

Wait, Dirk's sick in the NBA Finals. And he played well and his team won. Just like Michael Jordan's Flu Game! What a great story!

A "perceptive" reporter caught on and asked Jason Terry if this was Dirk's "Flu Game" and Terry gave just about the most perfect answer.

"A Jordanism, really? I don't know about that."

Yeah, I don't know about that. Let's compare.

Michael Jordan's Flu Game
44 minutes, 13-27 from the field, 2-5 from 3, 38 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals

Dirk Nowitzki's Fever Game
39 minutes, 6-19 from the field, 0-2 from 3, 21 points, 11 rebounds, one assist

Yeah, I don't know about that. Actually, I do know about that. Not even close to comparable. Dirk was impressive, no doubt, considering the circumstance. Playing with a bum finger on your off-hand is one thing, but beating the Miami Heat with a fever of 102 is another. That's impressive. That's outstanding.

But Jordan's performance was on another level. It's hard to compare sickness levels here, but visibly, Jordan's illness was a notch above. He had the lasting image of Scottie Pippen carrying him off the floor, the ice pack on his neck on the bench, the obvious exhaustion -- and yet he walked on to the floor and just kept coming and coming and coming.

And one other big, key difference: Jordan's condition was well known prior to the game and it was a question as to if he'd play at all. With Dirk, we only found out at halftime and really judging by the way Dirk was playing and handling himself, you really wouldn't have known. Maybe that speaks a bit to Dirk's toughness, but in terms of story, it didn't drum anything up.

The Flu Game was legendary. It was historic. It's something that's in the pantheon of NBA greatness. It's the type of thing that you'll never, ever, ever, ever forget.

Dirk's Fever Game? It was good, yes. He had two big driving layups late in the game and grabbed a few timely rebounds. But unless you're a Mavs fan, you'll probably forget all about this game in a few years. Jordan, on the other hand, had the huge hanging jumper in the lane and the 3 with the game tied at 85-85 with 30 seconds left as he dragged his near-lifeless body back down the court. It was... unbelievable.

Only two things really link these two games: 1) They were both in the NBA Finals and 2) both guys were sick. Other than that, trying to place Dirk's Game 4 anywhere near Jordan's Game 6 in 1997 is just silly.

But don't ask Scottie Pippen about it. I'm afraid of his answer.
Posted on: June 8, 2011 1:41 am
Edited on: June 8, 2011 2:23 am

NBA Finals: Mavs hard D stifles Heat 'athletes'

Posted by Matt Moore

DALLAS -- Dirk's "flu" game. LeBron James wilting in the biggest moment of his career. Wade not being enough. All those storylines, and do you want know the real reason why Dallas is right back in this series and we're going to seven games?

They played the best defense you're ever going to see on a LeBron James- and Dwyane Wade-led pick-and-roll attack.

They attacked the passing lanes and were successful. They made life hard for a Heat team that seemed taken aback at how difficult it was.

"We have to get into the ball," DeShawn Stevenson said. "They don't want to play a tough game."

Let's say you don't like numbers, that you don't trust them. Watching the game it was evident that the Mavericks were so far into the Heat's pick-and-roll, so deep into their movements shutting off angles, attacking the dribble and creating majestic failure after majestic failure, you don't need a calculator or video evidence to recognize it. Tyson Chandler, Shawn Marion, and even, perhaps especially, DeShawn Stevenson, not only kept their position, but attacked relentlessly on the pick-and-roll. Often, they battled it all the way out to mid-court, and created abject chaos. Again, there's no screencap necessary to see that, no calculation needed as proof. The Mavericks drove the Heat offense, which seemed unstoppable after Game 1, into the ground. They buried it, and stuck a tombstone on it that read "You're athletic. We're many. We want it more tonight."

Let's say you do want the evidence, that you're fully prepared to embrace the facts, since they are inescapable. Synergy Sports had the Heat clocked at 34 possessions resulting in a shot or turnover from the ball-handler or roll-man. Of those 34 possessions, the Heat scored just 17 points. So, every time they went to the pick-and-roll in Game 4, they scored just .50 points on each possession, a half a point every time they ran it. They had eight, count 'em, eight turnovers out of those sets. They turned the ball over out of the pick-and-roll, then they scored.

How did they do it? Stevenson said it was a matter of getting "into the ball."

"We pushed the ball out further," Stevenson said after his best game of the series on both sides of the ball, despite being removed from the starting lineup. "And (we) stayed into the ball. We can't let them get into free space, they can split the screen. We have to stay into the ball."

Tyson Chandler who had a monster game controlling both sides of the glass, scoring, and helping all the way out in those situations said it was necessary with the kind of athleticism the Heat are throwing at them.

"They put so much pressure on you," Chandler said, noting how Dwyane Wade's dribble hesitation really created problems. "But we did a better job tonight of kind of stringing them out and making the rotations."

In a series where every possession is crucial, and with so few of them to go around ... With the defensive pressure so high, and every game living and dying with the final moments, it was the Mavs ability to turn the "skirmish" tables on the Heat and blow right by them. Coach Rick Carlisle isn't crediting any sort of great defensive scheme for the successes.

"We've got a team system, and the schemes we're using aren't very complex. It's just all about hard play."

Hard play and toughness. You know, the type of game that, in Game 4, the Heat wanted no part of. Now the series is tied, and we get to see what the Heat are made of.

We know what Dallas is.
Posted on: June 7, 2011 11:26 pm
Edited on: June 7, 2011 11:29 pm

Dwyane Wade blocks Tyson Chandler video

Video of Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade rejecting Dallas Mavericks center Tyson Chandler at the rim during Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Posted by EOB Staff.

First, Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade rose high to throw down an alley-oop pass from LeBron James.

Then, he rose even higher to swat a dunk attempt by Dallas Mavericks center Tyson Chandler.

With roughly seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the 2011 NBA Finals, Wade rotated over late to contest a dunk attempt by the wide open Chandler.

Chandler went up with two hands to flush it, but Wade was having none of that. Using his right hand to reject the attempt, Wade swatted it cleanly out of the air, with the momentum of his block sending Chandler crashing down to the ground. It's worth noting that Wade is listed at 6-foot-4 while Chandler is 7-foot-1.

The Heat went down the court in the other direction, where Wade finished on the other end. The four-point swing gave Miami a 76-73 lead.

Here's the video of Dwyane Wade's block of Tyson Chandler during Game 4 courtesy of YouTube user DailyThunder.

Posted on: June 7, 2011 11:05 pm
Edited on: June 7, 2011 11:13 pm

LeBron James to Dwyane Wade alley-oop video

Video of Miami Heat forward LeBron James connecting with guard Dwyane Wade on an alley oop during Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Posted by EOB Staff.

With just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter of Game 4 of the 2011 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, the Miami Heat's superstar tandem of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade connected on a filthy alley-oop dunk.

James threw the pass from the three-point line with Jason Kidd pressuring him. He released the pass as Wade cut backdoor from the right corner. Mavericks big man Brian Cardinal attempted to rotate over to contest the pass, but Wade rose high, catching the pass with two hands at his apex and slamming it down with authority. Wade then strutted back to midcourt, emphasizing his handiwork.

Wade's slam gave Miami a 67-64 lead. 

Here's the video of LeBron James' alley-oop pass to Dwyane Wade during Game 4 courtesy of YouTube user DailyThunder.

Posted on: June 7, 2011 10:41 pm
Edited on: June 7, 2011 10:41 pm

Dirk is playing with triple-digit temperature

Posted by Royce Young

Dirk Nowitzki has been hot a lot in the postseason. But that's always been meant figuratively.

Now it's literal.

ABC sideline reporter Doris Burke reported at halftime of Game 4 that Dirk played the first half with a fever of 101. He went just 4-10 in the half for 10 points and after starting the game well (he hit his first three shots), Dirk cooled off, missing six of his last seven.

Obviously this isn't going to stop Dirk from playing any and all it can really do is increase the already growing legend of Dirk. A stong finish or a couple big shots and Dirk will have his own mini "flu game" to go on this building playoff resume.
Posted on: June 7, 2011 6:26 pm
Edited on: June 7, 2011 8:12 pm

Barea to start, Haywood active for Mavericks

J.J. Barea will move into the Dallas Mavericks starting lineup in place of DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood has been activated. Posted by Ben Golliver. jj-barea

The Dallas Mavericks have been playing from behind throughout the NBA Finals, or at least it feels that way. Trailing 2-1, the Mavericks are reportedly switching up their starting lineup in hopes of reversing that trend.

On Tuesday afternoon, HoopsWorld.com reported that reserve guard J.J. Barea would move into the starting lineup in place of DeShawn Stevenson.

Later Tuesday, the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram confirmed the lineup change, citing multiple sources.

In his pre-game media availability, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle would not confirm the move. 

"I'm not going to confirm that," Carlisle said. "Although someone has put themselves out there with that prediction. I can confirm that I have an assistant video guy that would like to date the T-Mobile 4G girl. That's not going to happen for him right now either.

"My policy has been the same as long as I have been here. I release lineups 16 minutes before the game, and I'll continue to do that."

In the locker room, however, Stevenson told reporters that Barea would take his place in the starting lineup. 

Carlisle did say that center Brendan Haywood, who missed Game 3 due to a hip flexor injury, will be activated for Game 4. 

"The plan is that he'll give it a shot and hopefully it will go well. We'll see. He's worked hard to reduce the swelling, he's had multiple MRIs, all that stuff. We've kind of worked up to this. We obviously need him. We're hoping it goes well.

Barea, a pint-sized sparkplug, has been a key contributor throughout Dallas' playoff run, but he's fizzled so far in the Finals. He's averaging 8.2 points and 3.2 assists and is shooting 40% overall in the postseason. His Finals numbers: 4.3 points and 1.7 assists on an abysmal 21.7% shooting.

The Mavericks have to hope his energy and the match-up problems his size pose can help jumpstart their early offense. The move will likely force Barea to guard Heat guard Mike Bibby, with Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd defending Dwyane Wade

Stevenson is a starter in name only, as the Mavericks give heavy minutes to reserve guard Jason Terry and Barea. Barea started just two games during the 2010-2011 regular season and has not started a playoff game yet this postseason.

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra did not announce any lineup or active roster changes.

Posted on: June 7, 2011 5:59 pm
Edited on: June 7, 2011 6:46 pm

NBA Finals Game 4: Miami Heat notebook

A notebook of Miami Heat quotes before Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Posted by Ben Golliver. dwyane-wade-grit

Dwyane Wade Shifting Gears

Nobody changes pace or shifts gears more smoothly than Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade. On Tuesday morning, Wade said that on-court silkiness doesn't apply to his leadership style.

"I’m zero to 60," Wade said. "It’s either one or the other for me."

During Game 3, Wade was quite vocal, yelling instructions at his teammates, including LeBron James.

"Last game it was 60. Today, right now, it’s zero. We’ll see what the game brings. Leadership style can’t change because of who you’re talking to."

"Dwyane is a very passionate guy," Heat forward Chris Bosh said. "Once he gets going, he’s in the moment. He’ll surprise you sometimes. Any time he’s going to voice his opinion, he’s right. He just wants to win, and he wants the best out of us. He demands it. We demand it out of each other."

Bosh said the tongue-lashings never bother him. He's used to it. 

"I’ve been getting yelled at since I was 10 years old," Bosh said. "It’s all because we want the best out of each other."

Heat guard Mario Chalmers, arguably the Heat player who catches the most grief from his teammates, said he is cool with all the yelling.

"They're just giving me constructive criticism," Chalmers said on Monday. "Telling me how to do better. It's nothing like they're trying to show me up. It's all positive things."

Later, he admitted that it can get tiresome. 

"Once they say it, and they keep saying it, you're like, 'OK, I get it.' But I love my teammates."

If there's a silver lining for Chalmers it's that Wade and James can take as good as they give.

"They're stars on the team, but you can still talk to them and give them pointers and tell them what they can do too," Chalmers said.

LeBron James Loves Defense

On Tuesday, James was asked whether the size and length that he and Wade present on the perimeter are what makes Miami's defense so great.

"We’re not the only team with size," James replied. "Honestly, you have to want to play defense. Me and D-Wade aren’t the only guys with size on the perimeter. We love to play both sides of the floor. You have to be dedicated to playing both sides of the floor.

"Defense, that’s what I’m about. I love to play that side of the floor."

Wade: LeBron Isn't Shrinking

Following Game 3, CBSSports.com's Gregg Doyel asked James if he was shrinking from the moment during the fourth quarter. James replied that he was a two-way player and that Doyel needed to go back and watch the tape. The exchange led to all sorts of online chatter.

Wade was asked for his thoughts on the back-and-forth on Tuesday.

"My reaction to it? First of all, I thought he answered it great."

As for asking the question to James about whether he was shrinking from the moment during the Finals?

"Some people like to be on TV," Wade said.

Ready For War In Game 4

Winning Game 4 would give Miami a commanding 3-1 series advantage with three opportunities to close it out, two of them at home. As you might expect, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra wasn't about to look ahead.

"We have to come in with a tough-minded disposition tonight," Spoelstra said. "A series is about getting to four wins first. All we’re intent on doing tonight is taking care of this game. Concentrating on that. It will be a dogfight as we can expect every game to be. It will be possession basketball decided in the last few moments."

On Monday, Bosh said he too was ready for an all-out performance from Dallas. 

“It’s going to be two teams playing desperate basketball," Bosh said. "We can’t take our foot off the throttle."

Wade said the Heat needed to be prepared for Dallas' ability to score in bursts.

"This team is so potent offensively we don't want to give them too much confidence," Wade said. "Because when they start hitting shots, when it rains it pours around here. We want to make sure our defensive principles stay the same no matter what."

On Tuesday, James cautioned that a Game 4 win wouldn't be enough to put the Mavericks down.

"I don’t think the life will be out of them [if they lose]," James said. "Every game for us will be a must-win. We’ll be coming out with that same desperation we had in Game 3."

Spoelstra's Long, Steady Road

Spoelstra predicted another tight, grinding game on Tuesday night. His logic: The Heat hasn't known anything but that during the entire 2011 playoffs. 

"We’ve been through a lot of tough series already, where each game was contested," Spoelstra said. "We haven’t really had a game in the playoffs that we felt we were able to really extend. Even the games that we won, it was within the last three or four minutes of the game. So we’ve had all of our games against tough opponents playing possession basketball. Every shot, every rebound, every loose ball matters. And then you have to find some way to close it out at the end."

Tuning In 

Bosh was asked whether he thought Miami's Big 3 was responsible for the huge TV ratings that the 2011 NBA Finals are drawing. To Bosh, the event itself is bigger than the participants.

“It’s the Finals," Bosh said with a smirk. "I’d be watching.”

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com