- With Game 5 of the NBA Finals on the line, LeBron James drove to the basket, drew three defenders, and passed out to Danny Green, who missed the go-ahead three-pointer.
- After the game, some in the NBA world criticised James for passing instead of taking the shot.
- James defended his decision, saying he always makes the right play and he’d live with the missed shot.
- Most in the NBA world agreed that James made the right decision, saying he would have been praised if Green hit the shot.
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LeBron James’ late-game decision-making is once again the subject of debate after the Miami Heat’s 111-108 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in a thrilling Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
The final five minutes of the game saw the two teams trade huge baskets, with Jimmy Butler and James at one point scoring four straight baskets in the final two minutes to give their teams the edge.
Butler sank two free throws to put the Heat up one with 16.8 seconds left. On the other end, LeBron James drove to the basket, drew the attention of three Heat defenders, then threw a pass back out to a wide-open Danny Green at the top of the key. Green missed the go-ahead three.
The Lakers got the offensive rebound, but Markieff Morris threw the ball out of bounds while attempting to get it to Anthony Davis underneath the basket.
The Heat’s Tyler Herro sank two more free throws to put Miami up three, and James missed a last-second half-court heave to tie the game as time expired.
The Heat forced Game 6.
Should James have shot the ball?
James delivered a dominant performance in Game 5 in what many thought would be a championship-sealing win for the Lakers. James finished with 40 points on 15-of-21 shooting to go with 13 rebounds and 7 assists. He scored 12 of his 40 points in the fourth quarter and was hot from three, hitting 6-of-9 deep attempts.
Naturally, with the way James was rolling in the game, some thought he would have been better off shooting.
Yes Danny Green was open but I don’t care what no one says… Bron needed to shoot that shot. PERIOD.
— Jay Williams (@RealJayWilliams) October 10, 2020
It’s been a common theme throughout James’ career. In late-game moments, James has often made the “right” play, passing to an open teammate to take the shot if he was double- or triple-teamed.
Of course, James has also taken plenty of clutch shots and made them â€” his track record far exceeds his reputation in those moments.
After the game, James said he would live with the decision, saying only that he wished he had thrown a better pass.
“I mean, if you just look at the play, I was able to draw two defenders below the free-throw line and find one of our shooters at the top of the key for a wide open three to win a championship,” James said. “I trusted him, we trusted him, and it just didn’t go. You live with that. You live with that. It’s one of the best shots that we could have got, I feel, in that fourth quarter, especially down the stretch with two guys on me, Duncan Robinson and Jimmy, and Danny had a hell of a look. It just didn’t go down. I know he wish he can have it again. I wish I could make a better pass. But you just live with it.”
The Lakers head coach Frank Vogel also defended the play after the game.
“He had two guys on him. A third defender came and so with three guys on you, he made the right play. Danny is one of our best shooters, he had a great look, and we live with the results.”
Of course, away from the macho, LeBron-isn’t-clutch takes, mostly shared by talking heads and Twitter users, there is a small basketball debate to be had about the value of James trusting someone else with the final shot.
The Lakers were 0-of-6 shooting off a LeBron James pass in the clutch, 0-of-4 on open looks, which includes the Danny Green 3-pt miss with 7 seconds remaining in the game. @ESPNStatsInfo
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpears) October 10, 2020
Given the way James was shooting throughout the game, should he have taken the final shot and lived with that result?
Many people agreed with James’ decision, and there is historical precedent that it was the right play
Despite the results and following debate, many in the NBA world agreed with James’ decision, mostly because of the basic circumstances: James was surrounded by defenders and passed to a wide open Green, a career 38.7% three-point shooter in the postseason.
“The Danny Green pass is the best option,” ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on his podcast after the game.
He added: “We’ve been doing this for 17 years. If Danny Green makes that shot, a lot of the same people [criticising James for passing] are like, ‘What a great play by LeBron. Unselfish play. This is why he’s a leader. This is why they’re champions.'”
Many others in the NBA world came to James’ defence.
There's not really a "LeBron should have shot through a triple team and not passed to Danny Green" conversation, right? There wasn't a defender within 15-feet of Green, a proven playoff shooter. You make that pass every time. Green needs to make that shot.
— Chris Mannix (@SIChrisMannix) October 10, 2020
LeBron’s pass was 10000% the right decision. Keep all that other BS off the timeline please.
— Luke Bonner (@LukeyBonner) October 10, 2020
LeBron had 40-13-7 on 15-21 shooting, had multiple could-have-been game-winners and you know the talking heads are gonna kill him for passing to Danny Green on that last possession, which sucks. Was the right play (even though it wasn’t a very good pass)
— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) October 10, 2020
LeBron made exactly the right play. Green has to hit that shot. https://t.co/2Qc03ssD4H
— Jason Reid (@JReidESPN) October 10, 2020
LeBron just makes the right play and if it doesn't work out it's on to the next. If he tries to take the ball through the heart of the defense and DOESN'T pass to a wide-open Danny Green up top, THAT's what would make him lose sleep.
— Russ Bengtson (@russbengtson) October 10, 2020
The right play was made. Not sure how it could be debated. Good stuff from Dave. https://t.co/Wa5azH5Q6A
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) October 10, 2020
As many have also noted, some of Michael Jordan’s most famous plays in the Finals were passes to open teammates, like John Paxson and Steve Kerr, who hit big, championship-sealing shots.
“We got a hell of a look to win the game, to win the series. Didn’t go down,” James said after the game. “And then we got the offensive rebound, we turned the ball over … We’ve just got to be better in Game 6 and close the series.”
- Read more:
- LeBron James had a funny back-track about what it would take to earn respect from Lakers fans
- Jalen Rose says a 4th championship puts LeBron James on the NBA’s Mt. Rushmore, but Michael Jordan would still be the ‘GOAT’
- Jimmy Butler’s rise to NBA superstardom is among the most unlikely in the league
- A ranking of LeBron James’ top teammates through the years shows he hasn’t always had All-Star help
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