According to Comcast SportsNet’s Ric Bucher, the Spurs have LeBron right where they want him.
With the NBA Finals tied 1-1 and headed to San Antonio, Bucher believes Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has intentionally invited James to play his favourite role, the distributor.
James wore his Michael Jordan hat in the Eastern Conference Finals when he averaged 29 points, seven rebounds and five assists. But in the NBA Finals, James has shifted back to his Oscar Robertson, do everything role, averaging 17.5 points, 13 rebounds and 8.5 assists in the first two games.
According to Bucher, Popovich prefers this poison:
“Leaving (LeBron’s teammates) out of the equation to get a win, even if that’s what the situation calls for, does not come easily to (LeBron). Gregg Popovich, mastermind of all things psychological, has to know this, so my guess is that he took the approach he did in Game 2 because he wants to keep giving LeBron and the Heat different looks each game. Daring LeBron to score and score big is one he’s keeping in his back pocket.”
It’s an interesting point. The Spurs frequently doubled LeBron in Game 2, knowing full well LeBron is a phenomenal passer and the Heat surround him with sharp-shooting floor spacers like Ray Allen(13 points in Game 1 and Game 2) and Mike Miller (nine points in Game 2).
It could be that the Spurs just want someone besides LeBron to beat them. But while that adage works for lesser stars like Dwight Howard, the genius of James’ game is that he is more deadly when he is not shooting: the Heat are 9-2 in the postseason when LeBron takes 17 shots or less, 4-3 when he shoots more.
Playoff basketball is all about adjustments, and as the series shifts to San Antonio, look to see if the Spurs shift their defensive strategies to force LeBron to win a game with his singular scoring force.
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