Just 11 games into the NBA season, the fourth-quarter struggles of LeBron James and the Miami Heat have resurfaced.LBJ was 1-6 from the field and 6-10 from the free-throw line in the fourth-quarter of last night’s OT loss to the Clippers.
Two nights ago, he scored just one of his 34 points in a fourth-quarter collapse against Golden State.
Now, the demons of last year’s late-game woes in the NBA Finals have returned, and people are once again dumbfounded as to how the world’s best player can be dominant for three quarters, but utterly absent when it matters.
Here are three crackpot theories about why he stinks in the fourth:
He has a psychological flaw, and it’s tied to his narcissism and arrogance and everything we dislike about him. This is the most popular theory. But it’s really flimsy since it has nothing to do with reality and everything to do with our propensity to create narratives and shoehorn what we see on the court into those narratives.
Miami’s pieces don’t fit naturally, and that disjointedness comes out in crunch time. The Miami Heat can’t decide if they want to be a radical basketball experiment or just an ordinary team with elite players. They redesigned their offence to improve spacing and get out into the open court like no team before them, but down the stretch they still rely on efficiency in the half-court. That’s where they fall apart, perhaps because having “roles” is integral to half-court success, and the Heat don’t have roles.
Defenses key in on him, making him seem “passive” when he passes out of the double team, and “ineffective” when he tries to take on the double team. The thing about LeBron’s late-game choke jobs is this: no two are alike. Sometimes he disappears. Sometimes he forces the issue and fails. Maybe his late-game issues are a combination of him trying to do too much, and his teammates not converting when he makes good basketball decisions.