Posted June 17, 2013

LeBron James, Heat face elimination after Spurs ‘snowball’ to Game 5 win

2013 NBA Finals, Ben Golliver, LeBron James, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs
LeBron James drives to the basket in Game 5 of the NBA Finals

LeBron James hit just 40 percent of his shots in the paint during Game 5. (Greg Nelson for Sports Illustrated)

SAN ANTONIO — LeBron James technically stopped short of guaranteeing a victory, but his framing of Game 5 carried an implication that exceeded mere self-confidence: The 2013 Finals belong to the Heat, he seemed to say, and a decisive victory Sunday would be had because he was going to put his foot down.

“I think it’s time,” James said Saturday, one day before the Spurs defeated the Heat 114-104 to take a 3-2 series lead. “I think we’re well overdue when it’s time for us to win consecutive games. … I think it’s time. Enough is enough for our team.”

Enough wasn’t quite enough, not yet, as this matchup continues to prove that there is no simple switch for Miami to turn on and off at a whim. James had tried to draw a line in the sand, and Danny Green, the red-hot Spurs sharpshooter, responded by toeing the line and letting fly three after three. He didn’t stop until a Finals record was secured, until the Heat alternated wins and losses for the 12th straight game and until the Spurs were heading for South Beach armed with two chances to close out the fifth title of the Gregg Popovich era.

Green, who finished with 24 points and hit six three-pointers, didn’t stop until James was sitting at a postgame press conference, deferring questions to Dwyane Wade and looking despondent. He was forced to concede that perhaps this series wasn’t entirely under his control, after all.

“If I knew the answer, we would have won two games in a row,” James said when asked why his “enough is enough” proclamation had fallen flat. “We just haven’t been able to do it.”

It wasn’t much of an answer. After Miami’s Game 3 blowout loss, James made a point of falling on his sword, taking full responsibility for a quiet night that saw him miss jumpers and pass up opportunities to attack the hoop. His tone Sunday was more regretful than frustrated, perhaps because his performance was lacking mostly in good fortune rather than assertiveness.

Yes, James went roughly 20 minutes in the second half without a field goal, but his shot chart confirms that he wasn’t settling or wandering around the perimeter this time. He finished with 25 points on 8-of-22 shooting and 7-of-9 from the line, adding eight assists, six rebounds and four steals. His nine free-throw attempts more than doubled his previous high in the Finals, a telltale sign that he was in “go” mode. While his jumper deserted him again, as he hit just 2-of-7 from outside the paint, he had a much more pressing concern: The 2013 MVP, who, according to NBA.com, shot 70.4 percent in the paint this season, hit just 6-of-15 (40 percent) from that area during Game 5, including a number of missed shots at the rim in transition situations.

“That’s where it starts for us, honestly,” James said. “I think between the two of us [James and Wade], we probably missed 12 layups tonight. Transition layups that we usually convert. I missed a lob. I missed two layups on the same possession. … Those are shots we make. And maybe it would be a different turnout at that point.”

Maybe, but probably not. The Spurs took a commanding lead in the first quarter and then put the game into a comfort zone with a 19-1 second-half run that was a thing of beauty. Kicked off by yet another Green three with a little less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter, a slump-busting Manu Ginobili picked up the ball and ran with it, scoring seven points to close the quarter and threading the needle on a beautiful pass to Tiago Splitter for a dunk.

As James missed jumpers and layups — he would fail to connect on eight straight second-half attempts — the Spurs’ onslaught continued. Ginobili scored again, Kawhi Leonard hit a three and Tim Duncan found a putback bucket. All of a sudden, a 75-74 Spurs lead had ballooned to a 94-75 margin in less than six minutes.

“We had weathered the storms, and when we got [the deficit] to one, we thought we were in a decision position on the road,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But it snowballed.”

This San Antonio group — tested and connected telepathically — can snowball at a moment’s notice and from all directions. Their Game 5 attack was balanced, at least among the starters, as Ginobili’s unannounced inclusion in the starting lineup made the Spurs unusually top-heavy. San Antonio’s first five scored 107 of the team’s 114 points, with Ginobili pouring in a season-high 24 to go with 10 assists, and Tony Parker, who played his most commanding game of the series, tallying a game-high 26 points and five assists. That, plus Green’s third detonation in five games, was more than enough to overcome 66 combined points from Miami’s Big Three and 21 points off the bench from Ray Allen.

With each big San Antonio run, and with each convincing San Antonio victory, the window tightens for James and Miami. Inexplicably, the Heat have struggled to produce consistent defensive effort in this series. Surprisingly, the Spurs’ rotating cast of defensive characters — Boris Diaw got a chance Sunday — has found a way to throw off James just enough to swing things in their favor. On multiple occasions, Miami’s dry stretches on offense have turned into crippling San Antonio runs.

Now, facing elimination head-on, the puffy-chested confidence that produced “enough is enough” has given way to a zoomed-in, realistic assessment.

“We can’t worry about a Game 7,” James said, alluding to the possibility of a failed championship quest. “We have to worry about Game 6.”

Where he had once looked to put his foot down, James now seemed to be treading lightly. Where he once planned to impose his will to capture a title, James now hedged back toward safer ground, making it clear he wasn’t going to get ahead of himself again.

And, where he once welcomed all of the pressure on his shoulders, James called for reinforcements.

“I have to come up big for sure in Game 6,” James said. “But I believe we all have to play at a high level in order to keep the series going.”

Perhaps it was San Antonio’s balance that kept James from repeating his solo act, or perhaps it was the memory of the Big Three’s joint success in Game 4. Either way, he wasn’t about to make a promise that he couldn’t keep, or hint at a guarantee that might come back to bite him.

19 comments
airmjbsanders
airmjbsanders

How poetic would it be for an org as pure & fundamentally sound as SAS to derail the NBA/ESPN hype machine that is the Heat!It’s funny how the media & bandwagon fans just assumed that puttin 3 redundant superstars together would magically produce a dynasty, while a completely homegrown Spurs team built around one of the last dominant big men in the league continues to be the ONLY dynasty in the gm since the Shaq-KB Lakers!This will be a great lesson in pro hoops if SAS pulls this off…

dc5
dc5

people tend to forget that lebron is still only 28, same age jordan got his first ring.

also, people don't remember that the spurs tanked on the year they got duncan, the year david robinson was injured.

they got the first round pick that year and suddenly they have duncan and robinson.

BlackProudWoman!
BlackProudWoman!

I am not a Spurs fan, but I think a win for them would be good for the NBA -  Other teams and players can see that there is not an "instant soup" solution to building a dynasty - Also, has anyone else gotten the feeling that things are cooling off between Wade and James - I just do not see the same camaraderie between them as I have seen in the past -  And there have been a few remarks - particularly by James about his role on the team - and other players that stand out as a lil odd to me: Claiming he is he leader - comparing his workload to what it was when he was in Cleveland - saying that his passing ability is both a curse and blessing because he feels compelled to try to get Wade and Bosh involved in the game.  And finally, declaring that he is the leader of the team - I know this might be true in theory - but I am not so sure that is something you say - or he has ever said until now.  And certainly, you Wade looks more than injured when he is on the Bench - he looks a lil withdrawn.  Something just does not seem right here.  They do not win this series - and there will be some interesting talks -  

The Cool Ruler
The Cool Ruler

The problem is not King James alone, he is going to get his 20+ 10 and a at least 5 assists..... Coach Spoelstra... I cringe at calling him coach... is where the problem is with Miami. That team has not been coached for a while, Erik just lets them go out on the floor and throw a couple of dunks, and when they do win.... which winning almost all the games is pointless in the regular season, unless u can deliver the NBA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP at the end of the season.


If Miami win, Erik is going to take credit, and if they lose, he should take credit then to, and go.

drolsen1999
drolsen1999

LBJ just isn't as mentally tough as MJ Magic Bird or even Duncan. As great of a player LBJ is with all the skills and atlethism he can't always put it together when needed. Also by joining up with such a powerhouse team he can never in my opinion be considered the greatest all time. Duncan on the other hand at the age of 37 is just adding to his legacy. If the spurs can win one more game in miami Tim Duncan will be 5 for 5 in NBA finals with Parker and Ginobili being 4 for 4 in NBA finals. Can we put the talk of lbj being the greatest of all time to rest finally. That is just an ignorant statement probably mostly from people that didn't like Michael Jordan or didn't ha e the privilege of watching him. If they want to say LBJ is better than Kobe that's not as ignorant as the MJ but almost. Lets see if the guy can win 3,4, maybe 5 rings and then see who had the most help in those chips. If Tim Duncan gets his fifth ring this year doesn't he half to be considered a top 5 player of all time???

MikelArtist
MikelArtist

jordan got 6 rings... kobe got 5.... parker, ginobili, duncan got 4....

james...got... only 1... not 2... not 3.. not 4... not5... not 6... not 7... not 8.... toink...!!! bwhahaha...

marc.alexandro.b
marc.alexandro.b

In before the usual Jordan comparisons, let me remind you that MJ had his struggles against the Knicks, Pistons, and Magic...all great stars do, however Jordan eventually over came those teams, he needed  a great coach and some great players, but he did-but he could not all it by himself. 

And LBJ is in the same situation, needing to overcome a team, that well, owns him-statistically speaking. Quetion is will we see the Lebron that destroyed Boston in Game 6  last year or the one that disappeared against them in a Cleveland uni. Intriguing stuff. Gotta love this game.

airmjbsanders
airmjbsanders

@dc5 Um, it seems that you've forgotten that LBJ's been in the league for 10 years now!  Plus, unlike MJ, Bron-Bron has is 90% dependent on his athleticism.  Will be still be able to dominate in his 30s w/ a weak jumper & pis-poor post game?  Hmmm....

vicente
vicente

lbj is not in the same situation jordan was. he's in a great team in miami with arguably 2 future hall of famers, yet he's struggling to win a championship. already lost one and in danger of losing another one. mj never lost in the finals and could have won 8 straight had he not been forced to retire.

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@marc.alexandro.b 

Struggles, shmuggles. Once Jordan got his first ring, he proceeded to win not one, not two, not three, not four, not five... 


Bwawahahahaha!

daustin_13
daustin_13

@marc.alexandro.b  What?  He lost a single series to the Magic, the year he came out of retirement...and then led a 4-0 sweep of them the very next season when people said he wasn't the same.  I don't ever recall an MJ led Bulls team losing to NY in the playoffs (Bulls lost one year when Hugh Hollins made a horrible call on Scottie P. when MJ was retired and the Bulls lost is 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals).  The Bulls DID lose to the Pistons over and over again...but not because MJ struggled.  When Pippen and Grant got better, the Bulls beat the Pistons.  If you're comparing MJ's struggles to LeBron's then I can't agree.  We can compare early career struggles of both in terms of overcoming good teams, but not now.  LeBron is on a POWERHOUSE team expected to win.  Now MJ seems to have handled expectations better than LeBron though.  Jordan's teams just came up short against the Pistons.  LeBron on the other hand is just not playing well at all IMO.  He's going through the motions.

WillieWalkerWhite
WillieWalkerWhite

@vicente True Also lebron has lost twice in finals not just once remember in cleveland to Duncan spurs an more recently Dallas  anyway you look at it even diffrent teams he lost twice in Finals MJ never lost in finals he never went 7games in finals An he not only won regular season scoring titles, MVP Finals All 6 Times he won Heck he even won 3 steals titles to put mustard on top There will never be another MJ!!!

fabio.fantone
fabio.fantone

You also forgot he won a Defensive Player of the Year award, something Kobe or LeBron don't have on their resume!!