Despite 0-3 hole, LeBron doesn’t plan to alter game
CLEVELAND — LeBron James doesn’t want to change his game, sees no need to change his game and doesn’t plan to change his game.
That was the word from the Cavaliers small forward Wednesday afternoon with his team down 3-0 to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals heading into Game 4 tonight at 9 at Quicken Loans Arena.
“I play my game,” James said. “My game is what I’ve been doing. If I see a double team, I give the ball up. If I don’t see a double team, I try to attack and get into the lane. If I’ve got an outside shot, I take it.
“I can’t change my game. Everything I’ve been doing is what got us here.”
Anyone who’s watched the Cavaliers lose the first three games of the series knows that statement isn’t entirely accurate.
While he hasn’t played poorly, too many times James has seen the beginnings of a double team and continued to pound the basketball on the perimeter.
On numerous other occasions, he’s had the opportunity to pull up and take a relatively simple 17-footer, but he’s rarely done so. When he has, he hasn’t made any.
While James did attack the hoop strongly in the fourth quarter of Cleveland’s 75-72 loss in Game 3, his struggling team would probably benefit if he played with that extremely aggressive mindset from the opening tip tonight.
“Any time he can attack, we’re all for it,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said.
James, who finished with 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in Game 3, had 13 points through three periods, at which time he had taken 13 shots and four free throws.
In the fourth quarter, when the Cavaliers were down as many as 10, he threw caution to the wind and attacked the hoop almost every time down. As a result, he scored 12 points while taking 10 shots and four free throws.
However, as good as James was in almost willing his team to victory, he failed to finish drives to the rack on two consecutive possessions with the Cavaliers down 67-65.
“He found a way to get to the rim,” Brown said. “A couple layups he had, I would almost bet my paycheck they’d go in. Not my contract, my paycheck.”
With the Cavaliers down 72-70 and less than 20 seconds to play, James got into the lane and passed the ball out to Anderson Varejao at the top of the key, resulting in a wild shot that hit nothing but glass.
James’ plan was to get the ball back and attack the rim a second time, but Varejao’s out-of-control move prevented that from happening.
That it failed should not have been shocking considering the Cavaliers shot just .367 from the field (29-of-79), including a brutal 3-of-19 performance on 3-pointers.
“We took 19 threes,” Brown said. “All but three or four of them were great looks from the same guys, from the same spots, that made them against Detroit and New Jersey.”
Starting in place of Larry Hughes, who was 1-of-10 over the first two games, Daniel Gibson went 1-of-10 in Game 3 alone, including 0-of-5 on 3-pointers. Sasha Pavlovic was 5-of-15 from the field, while James was 9-of-23 and is now shooting .367 in the series (22-of-60).
James is 2-of-13 from behind the arc, with five of those misses coming Tuesday. In fact, all nine of his field goals in Game 3, when he seemed extremely reluctant to shoot a medium-range jumper, were basically layups or dunks. When he did shoot from the perimeter, it was almost always a 3-pointer.
“We had some great looks,” the 6-foot-8, 240-pounder said. “We just didn’t knock them down.
“I feel confident with my shot. You go up there and you take that shot. I know I can make them.”
Guarded by All-Defensive Team selection Bruce Bowen, James passed up numerous opportunities to shoot jumpers, only to drive and get double-teamed by one of San Antonio’s big men.
He also got double-teamed every time the Cavaliers tried to run pick-and-roll sets, leading one to wonder why the team continues to make the area more congested by setting a pick, especially since the athletic James does not need one.
“You’ve got to give all the props to the Spurs and all the props to Coach Pop (Gregg Popovich) and his staff,” James said. “They’ve done a wonderful job so far.”
The Cavaliers did have some success using James in the low post, but he did not always look comfortable there. The 22-year-old traveled on one occasion — his 17 turnovers in the series match his assist total — and waited for the double team and passed on several others instead of immediately attacking Bowen, whom he outweighs by 40 pounds.
“I’ve got to read the defense first,” James said. “I’ve always done that.”
With the Cavaliers on the verge of getting swept, it might be time to try something different, but it doesn’t look like James and the Cavaliers have plans to do that.
“I think he’s definitely trying (to impose his will),” Spurs center Tim Duncan said. “We’re a pretty good defensive team. We’re not bad. … Whether he tries to impose his will or not, we’re going to be standing in front of him.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT: Game 4, Spurs lead best-of-seven series, 3-0
WHO: Cleveland vs. San Antonio
TIME: 9 o’clock
WHERE: The Q
TV/RADIO: Channel 5; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM