Posted June 03, 2013

Heat can’t rely on LeBron James alone in decisive Game 7 against Pacers

2013 NBA playoffs, Dwyane Wade, Indiana Pacers, LeBron James, Miami Heat, Rob Mahoney
LeBron James will face the Indiana Pacers in a win-or-go-home Game 7 Monday night

LeBron James finished with 29 points while the other Heat starters combined for just 25 points in a Game 6 loss. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

No offense featuring LeBron James at its center could ever be toothless. But in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, the most explosive team in the regular season was reduced to the contributions of a single star and a burst of hot three-point shooting, producing just 77 points as the Pacers evened the series with the Heat at 3-3.

The Heat, known for their potent dribble-drive offense in the regular season, were held to 32 percent shooting in the paint and 25 percent inside the arc. James, who finished with 29 points (on 21 shots), six assists and seven rebounds, did what he could. But with no teammate creating competently (Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 15 points on 4-of-19 shooting), James was essentially left to fend for himself against the top defensive team in the league.

Wade simply is a shadow of his former self at the moment, a development that tags James with even more ball-handling responsibility and neuters Miami’s larger offensive efforts. His inability to finish hurts the Heat badly, but worse is Wade’s more general lack of explosion and inability to create. In Game 6, Wade posted just one assist to two turnovers in 34 minutes, which, when juxtaposed with his 3-of-11 shooting, fairly articulates how ineffective he was off the bounce. Every dribble he took on Saturday seemed either desperate or defensive, serving only to remind of the glaring difference between what he was capable of and what Miami needed.

THOMSEN: Heat searching for rhythm entering Game 7 | East finals hub page

As a a result of Wade’s feckless play, Indiana has found an ideal balance in challenging him in select situations while deserting him to help or double-team in others. For that reason, Wade contributes to the Heat’s problems even when he’s not directly involved in the play. He can’t control the ball because the Pacers understand all that he cannot do in his present form, and yet he doesn’t offer much as an off-ball threat because of his drag on Miami’s spacing. Wade has been able to get a few backdoor cuts for easy scores throughout the series, but not nearly enough to account for the greater absence of his offensive game.

Without a fully functional Wade, James doesn’t have much opportunity to work off the ball, for fear of more possessions like this one where he is the lone creator on the floor:

The stuff championship dreams are made of, truly.

MAHONEY: How Pacers are slowing down Heat

With a crucial source of counter-driving and playmaking operating at less than full strength and a vested interest in avoiding the above, Miami simplified its offense to feature more direct feeds to James in the post and a bevy of high, dry pick-and-rolls. The first option was countered rather easily, in part because Miami’s static formation made this basic offense easy to defend. Paul George did a fantastic job of encouraging James to take long jumpers, and on the occasions in which LeBron looked to get deeper into the paint, Indiana’s D was all over the potential kick-out pass:

As for the pick-and-roll sequences, James had success in keeping the ball and attacking whatever opening he could find. But he got no help as Bosh missed opportunity after opportunity and the Heat’s shooters found space hard to come by. It reached the point where the best pick-and-roll possibilities included using point guards Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers as James’ screeners, even when doing so put those spotty decision-makers in a position to make difficult, split-second reads against a savvy defensive front. Given the way James’ teammates struggled to make shots or the right passes, one can understand why he kept the ball so often.

But only so much good can come from an offense so static, even with James in a position of control. He’s talented and imposing enough to create offense on his own, but best when both he and his teammates are put in positions to succeed. Perhaps some advantage can be gained in more consistently establishing James at the elbow, a space on the floor from which he dominated and drew defensive attention in Game 5, or in trusting Chalmers or Cole in sets with more structure and direction. Regardless, it seems imperative that the Heat rediscover some aspect of their regular-season form. Every part of Miami’s floor-spreading offense won’t work in this context, but there are changes to be made in approach and execution that could create a better support system for James despite his teammates’ troubles.

Miami seems to pay a hefty price in this series whenever it goes small, and seemingly can’t rely on Wade to help manufacture points in bigger lineups. But the Heat will have to find some degree of success in both. Big men Tyler Hansbrough and David West can’t be allowed to guard Ray Allen and Shane Battier without penalty (they’re shooting 7-of-24 and 2-of-15 from three-point range, respectively, in the series), and Wade has to be put on the move to at least force the Pacers’ defense to react to his presence. The ball will undoubtedly be in James’ hands on many possessions, but the Heat can’t stop and redirect the ball his way at every turn, nor hinge an entire offense to his ability to create.

To do so is to abandon all that Miami does so well. Open three-pointers and looks in the paint will come less often against such a well-executing defense, but Game 6 represented an overreaction from Miami. Part of what makes James — and Miami on the whole — so difficult to defend is that he represents a constantly shifting target. He gets catches all over the floor and participates in all kinds of play actions, straining the defense in a wide variety of ways. And yet on Saturday the Heat forced James into an all too consistent role as a high pick-and-roll ball handler with few kick-out options. Repetition made James and the Heat that much easier to defend, and sacrificed all of the smart quirks embedded in an offense that’s far more flexible than it showed.

It’s essential for even great offensive teams to move and adjust over the course of a series, and the motivation to have James dominate the ball in a sequence that’s easy to initiate is understandable. But the Heat diverted so clearly from the ball and player movement that sustains their offense that it should come as little surprise that Miami ended with a mere 77 points in Game 6. This was a winnable game for the Heat with a few minutes left, as an unlikely late-game run put them in striking position, but James can only bring them so far.

If Miami’s offense retains that same dull strategic tenor in Game 7 on Monday, the Eastern Conference finals are likely Indiana’s to lose. Game 6 showcased what is essentially the blandest way possible to make use of the best basketball player on the planet, and it was a stark regression from Miami’s more imaginative regular-season offense. Wade isn’t himself and Bosh isn’t on point, but Game 7 will be a test of counter-tactics and preparation for a coaching staff that hasn’t been challenged to this degree in a long while.

Erik Spoelstra is a terrific, thoughtful coach, and it was under his strategic guidance that James was liberated and empowered over the past year. The lessons of that transformation can’t be so easily disregarded, even in desperation. James can work the pick-and-roll, and rightly should. But to confine him to that role without significant adjustment is to balk at the unique challenges Indiana poses, and to discredit the greater evolution that made Miami such a compelling contender.

35 comments
SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

Don't worry 2 refs will help LeBron win.

AaronDunckel
AaronDunckel

Im loving how somehow, people are using this to rip lebron and say he can't lead a team to rings by himself.  NOBODY CAN.
 

Duncan has Ginobili and Parker, and now Leonard and Splitter. 
Kobe has had Shaq, Gasol, Bynum
Celtics has Allen, KG, Pierce
Jordan had Pippen, Rodman, Grant, etc
Magic had Worthy, Kareem, etc
Bird had Parish, McHale, etc


Right now LeBron has nobody playing at an all-star level... 10 pts from Wade and 5 from Bosh wont get it done.  All the greats needed other players playing at All-Star/HOF levels to win rings, and this is no different

Dont let the facts get in the way of your anti-lebron wining, though

Mr. J
Mr. J

Maybe coach needs to wake up and sit Wade when he plays with not passion or energy and put in Miller, Lewis, or D Jones...At this point Wade is actually helping the Pacers win...Man up Wade if you are really that injured then you NEED to sit for the good of the team..right now all Wade does is dribble, dribble, dribble force up a bad shot..I would rather have those other guys hustling, playing defense and making wide open shots....Wade sit if you can bring it period!!

tarkio
tarkio

The Two Points to which the Talking Heads can not bring themselves to point out. The Heat did an old, phil jackson "mail one in boys" or people just got to face the facts Lebron James can not dominate a game when it counts. a player can have all the talent but deep down can not bring it to bare n dominate a team,in the game. All the greats players could n would when play got to be push come to shove. even Denis Rodman could dominate in the finals. look back at the game pipien n jorden, both sick, head colds, ect. the "hot rod" drove in a triple  double with 44 pionts. he dominated that game for a bulls win. cause he, like all great palyers; was not going to lose. So what is it; just can not Dominate or hey look at us (losers) "mail one it" A La , Phil jack (in ur) sand. check the fact, that if Heat won Game Six they get to rest n much need rest,Like early retirement pls..

woowoo095
woowoo095

Without engaging in a word war with anybody there are a few points I want to add here, Likable or not, the king has elevated the game. Magic created the big point guard and now it’s been taken to a whole new level with guys like KD and others. The supporting cast for Miami has been reduced to injuries and non contributing roles. The mere size and defensive quickness of the pacers has shrunk what was a bag of tricks to a couple of options for Lebron. This is how team play works and if you want World Championship Basketball, it takes a whole team to win it. Even if they pull it together tonight, I don’t think they have enough steam to take on the Spurs who are even better at doing what Indiana is doing to the Heat.

airmjbsanders
airmjbsanders

See this is what kills me @ the LeBron worship since he came to MIA.  If LBJ can't carry this team in a series vs IND, then how has he won the last 2 MVPs?


I don't understand the 'LeBron needs help' argument, when he's universally regarded as the best player in the league BY FAR!  This is whay it's always a joke when so many bandwagon fans compare LeFraud to MJ.  Durin the Bulls run in the 90s, nobody EVER said Mike needed Pip, Grant, Paxson, Kerr, Armstrong, etc. to put up big pts in order for CHI to win.  This is why MJ is all by himself as the GOAT -- he really did by himself on offense every single night!  LeBron never has & never will come close to that!!!

OK
OK

"Heat can’t rely on LeBron James alone in crucial Game 7 against Pacers"

The Queen can't carry his team to victory in one basketball game?

Never saw that written about Bill Russell or Michael Jordan.

Few lead. Most follow. The Queen trails behind.

marino.eccher
marino.eccher

"Bigs like Tyler Hansbrough and David West can’t be allowed to guard Ray Allen and Shane Battier without penalty (they’re shooting 7-of-24 and 2-of-15 from downtown respectively in the series)..."

One thing people forget about last year is that as well as James, Wade and Bosh played at the end of the Boston series and in the Finals, it still wouldn't have been enough if Battier hadn't caught fire from deep. From the last two games of the Boston series through the Finals, he shot 54 percent on 5.6 three-pointers per game. Miami is an excellent team, but when the role players don't hit 3's, they're vulnerable.

SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

@AaronDunckel 

LOL, Allen was never a real allstar with the Celts.

You would rather have Leonard and Splitter than 2 max guys Bosh and Wade?

airmjbsanders
airmjbsanders

@AaronDunckel 

How @ these for some FACTS:


10-11 Mavs: Dirk was the ONLY all-star

02-03 Suprs: Duncan was the ONLY all-star

93-94 Rockets: Dream was the ONLY all-star

Sorry buddy, but you can't be a LBJ slurper and a real NBA fan at the same time.

Mr. J
Mr. J

@tarkio Wow you are delusional and obviously know nothing about basketball..Focus on womens lacrosse you problem can relate to that...Lebron can't dominate?...Did you watch the Playoffs last year and this year... Must be a bitter Cleveland fan...If you are going to make an argument at least come up with one that may have some validity!!!

Mr. J
Mr. J

@airmjbsanders wow another bitter Cleveland fan......Its simple Lebron can't average 80pts 20 rebounds and 20 assist...He needs Wade and Bosh to at least give him close to their season averages....If you take the 4 Miami player off the court and let Lebron play 1 on 5 against Indiana what do you think would happen...Clear for you?

hdogg48
hdogg48

None of the MJ teams ever got clobbered in the paint or abused on

the boards like the Heatbdid in game 6. Outboarded by 20.

The Bulls had Rodman inside who was a maniac on the boards,

and a one time Defensive Player of the year. I'm sorry Bosh

is soft and if the Birdman is the best big they got..oh well.

Kobe had Shaq and then Gasol who is a very good inside

presence. In the words of Pat Riley..."no rebound...no ring."

OK
OK

@airmjbsanders  

Agreed, except Russell's the GOAT. Jordan carries Russell's gym bag.

AaronDunckel
AaronDunckel

@OK and you have the same stupid teenage insults no matter what....  Bill Russel played in a different era and had players like Bob Cousy and John Havlicek on his team.  Jordan had Pippen (HOF), Rodman (HOF), Grant , and others 


Right now lebron has nobody on his team playing at a high-level... his 2nd, 3rd, and 4th scoring options are falling flat and not producing.  

Time to grow up

Mr. J
Mr. J

@OK Hey bitter fan. If his teammates keep shooting 25% on all those open shots Lebron creates for them they won't win and neither would Jordan...Did you ever see Jordon score 80pts in a close out game? No he couldn't have because physically the body would wear down in a contested game 7...you need other players to hit open shots, help rebound and get loose balls and steals.....stupid!

casualumberjack
casualumberjack

@OK How many games does this man have to single handedly win before you give him a chance?

AaronDunckel
AaronDunckel

@SukeMadiq @AaronDunckel who on the heat is playing to the caliber of anyone else on any of those teams and players that I mentioned, esp in the playoffs?

You can nitpick small things but my point is valid, lebron haters

Duncan was dominant, but had help from Parker, Stephen Jackson, Ginobili in playoffs
Dirk was dominant, but Jason Terry, Shaun Marion, JKidd, and Chandler were playing at high levels in the playoffs
Dream was domainant, but 4 other players averagint double figures for the playoffs that year

Allen wasn't dominant their Champ year, but was one of TEN players who averaged double figures in the players, on a very balanced team (again proving my point)

I brought up Leonard and Splitter as two other guys on the Spurs that are playing well this playoffs and giving Duncan help, as opposed to Lebron

THIS YEARS SPURS PLAYOFF STATS:
4 players avg. double figures, Leonard is 3rd on the team in scoring and the core of Manu, Duncan, and Parker are the rest of the top 4 and all playing well

HEAT PLAYOFF STATS vs PACERS THIS SERIES
Lebron avg 28.5 pts per game, Bosh 11.3, Wade 14.5.  Lebron also doing in in rebounding and assisting, yet again.  Hes carrying the team right now, I'd certainly  rather have Duncan, Parker, Leonard, and Ginobili  before Wade and Bosh and Allen right now

Bottom line is Lebron is carrying the  team, and no star can do it alone - any seasoned basketball fan knows this and to deny it just shows anti-lebron bias and ignorance overall

airmjbsanders
airmjbsanders

@Mr. J @airmjbsanders  

Wow, another clueless LBJ worshipper!  If you can follow me, my point was that if Bron-Bron went to MIA to form a 3-headed monster, then he shouldn't get all the credit for their success (i.e., reg season MVPs).  When the BOS Big 3 came together, everybody recognized that they sacrificed individual recognition for a chance to compete for chips.  Why does LeChoke get treated so differently than any player in the history of the game?

 And P.S., I'm by no means a Cavs fan, just a hoops fans & clearly more knowledgeable than you.

OK
OK

@morejunk

 And blind fools gonna hump for The Queen and Her Court.

OK
OK

@casualumberjack

One game seven would be nice.

Of course, should The Queen choke tonight, the members of Her Court such as yourself will be out here to defend The Queen's personal hardware.

AaronDunckel
AaronDunckel

@airmjbsanders @AaronDunckel @Mr. J lets not get into the stupid classic "what is an MVP" argument 


Its the "best player award, and almost always has been historically.  Lebron is the best player - move on from that assessment that a minority still hold.  Thats typically not how the award is voted and that didn't change due to LeBron falling out. 


Bye the way, what happened to OKC when Westbrook went down but they still had Durant? Eliminated I believe in the next round.  They were favored to go to the finals before losing him, and also had Ibaka and Martin on that team, seeing how Lebron has carried the heat all year and had better ovarall stats, how is it so sure for you that Durant was even more valuable by your warped definition of MVP?

knickfan
knickfan


@airmjbsanders

I am not a Heat fan. But it's a good thing you said this anonymously. In front of a live audience anywhere in the US (or the world) you'd get laughed right out of the room.

AaronDunckel
AaronDunckel

@airmjbsanders @Mr. J lol when the man is averaging 27 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 asst per game, and is the unquestioned leading force on the team with the best record in the league

that usually gets your an MVP.... so stop bragging about your "more knowledgeable" status that clearly isn't in line with the stats and the regular season performances over the last few years

AaronDunckel
AaronDunckel

@OK @morejunk dont even worry about OK... hes just the perfect example of the classic 14-15 year old lebron hater.  Lebron has been the only thing keeping  this team afloat.  Jordan got vastly more help, as did Russel, Kobe, Bird, Magic...etc,etc

This dude just loooks for reason to make cheap, overused jokes about Lebron at every turn... thats all hes got really, "queen" every chance he gets

takes one to know one "queen ok"

OK
OK

@morejunk

No mercy for The Queen and her band of Foolish Court Jesters. Lock 'n load, baby. Lock 'n load.

OK
OK

@knickfan

The Queen is playing with two other overpriced chumps, The Little Bosh Woman and Show Me Da Green Or I Ain't Playin' For Da Red, White, and Blue, and she's facing a seventh game against a team without its best player, Danny Granger.

Michael Jordan never had this problem.

And the Greatest Player of All Time, Bill Russell, never gagged en route to winning 11 NBA Rings, two NCAA titles, and an Olympic Gold Medal.

OK
OK

@casualumberjack

Writing that The Queen has had her "fair share of chokes" is like writing that Lindsay Lohan has had her "fair share of arrests". The Queen chokes so often she has an ear, nose, and throat specialist on the posse payroll.

knickfan
knickfan

@OK @casualumberjack

Fan of a losing team that LBJ single-handedly beat OK, are you? No lies, please.

And if the Heat win tonight, and he's not the superstar of the game, he's still not good enough, right?

casualumberjack
casualumberjack

@OK @casualumberjack He certainly has had his fair share of chokes, but he has also won quite a few games carrying teams on his back. My point is simple: don't put yourself in a box. If he does pull out a stellar (and winning) game, at least I won't be eating my words.