I have a hunch that LeBron is going to do something transcendent tonight. One of those “WOW!” games. 44 and 16 or something. I don’t have numbers to back it up, which makes this prediction more meaningless than most, but, hey, what fun would it be otherwise? Oh yea, and his efforts lead to a close-but-not-nailbiting win. Maybe a 6 point edge, setting up an epic game 7.
What do you all think going into Game 6?
UPDATE: I’m going to give myself half-credit for this. LeBron put up a triple-double in an elimination game. He put together a dominant run in the 4th quarter that got Miami back in the game, without which they undoubtedly lose. He played phenomenal defense, especially on Parker. He missed some key shots, though also hit a huge three, and had some costly turnovers in big spots. Nonetheless, his efforts were integral to the Heat winning.
You are wrong. Spurs are going to win. They just are.
At happy hour at my local watering hole (one of 15 or so within walking distance of my home), a woman told me the Spurs were going to win because she couldn’t handle the stress of another game (I am in Spurs country). I remember when I was a kid and thought that my team could win or lose because I was or wasn’t watching, but I don’t remember ever thinking that my teams would win to meet my emotional needs.
I *still* think my viewing habits (or clothing habits… or seating arrangements… etc) impact the outcomes.
If the teams I was rooting for played with my emotional needs in mind, then they are all evil bastards.
Butterfly effect, man. It’s real. You have to watch from the same spot every time, out else it will send a causal ripple that can alter the outcome. This is science!
I wish they would! I don’t get emotionally invested often, but when I do I feel like no one gave them the message. Just like a bunch of men ;).
I am one of those people who can barely watch when a game is going well, and can’t watch at all when it’s not. My rational brain is telling me I will be fine either way, but my fan brain, located deep inside my amygdala where it is completely shut off from my rational brain, says it could be the end of the world.
I can say a sign of maturity is just how long I’m devastated for after a loss. I’m usually able to get to sleep at the regular time after most losses. This was not always the case.
Can I just, very briefly, comment on the commercials (even though I’m sure you all see something different)? Brad Pitt with long hair
(Did you get cut off there? I can make an edit if you post what you meant to say.)
Yeah, just that it’s almost enough to deter me from seeing WWZ.
Duncan is playing like he wants to end it tonight.
Bosh is playing like he wants it to end tonight.
Indeed. LeBron, as he has all series, seems flustered by the physical defense and too quickly settles for jumpers after a few unsuccessful drives.
Ugh. BUCK UP!
Watching LeBron makes me wonder “What if basketball players were allowed to use stickum?”
My Spur Fan buddy is driving me nutzo with his Spurs Appreciation. I’m hoping it goes to the Spurs in game seven so I can ask if he thinks that the Heat would win a game eight.
It’s all LeBron’s fault. (I haven’t watched any of it or looked at the score, but I think that’s a safe bet.)
Y’all should be following me on FaceBook. I’m killing it there with game commentary.
Mostly jokes about Mike Miller.
AGHALHLKUPROIUPOKJPOUR! LeBron James just made Tim Duncan look like Tiago Splitter!
Like · · Share · Promote · a few seconds ago near Monroe ·
If Mike Miller doesn’t leave the ground on a jump ball, does it make a sound?
Like · · Share · Promote · 2 minutes ago near Monroe ·
LeBron lost his headband! ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!
Like · · Share · Promote · 5 minutes ago near Monroe ·
Mike Miller should be forced to play all game with one shoe. It’d suit him.
Like · · Share · Promote · 9 minutes ago near Monroe ·
Lebron has shown up.
No reason to play Bosh again in the series.
He should never wear the headband again. Juwan Howard should hide it in his impeccably tailored suit pocket.
Wade and Bosh are liabilities right now.
… right now?
Hah… why change the lineup when Lebron is dominating? It makes no sense.
Sorry, I meant that they’ve been liabilities for a while.
Yeah, I got it. I am just too baffled to talk about anything else.
If this series has shown anything, it is that while Spoelstra might be a good coach, maybe even one of the better ones in the league right now… Popovich is just head and shoulders above him and everyone else.
Other than 10 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 3 steals.
Bosh showed up at the end of the 4th and in overtime. Generally he’s a liability though because he can’t play physical with the Spurs bigs, and his jump shot has been woeful, so the Spurs are just packing the paint to make Wade and Lebron shoot jump shots, which is not their game.
I might break my laptop.
I might pee myself.
I’d high five you, but now you smell.
Play twelve seconds.
Play seven more seconds.
Play fifteen more seconds.
Oh, his feet were only a yard behind the line. Better take an official time-out to be sure.
And people say that baseball is slow.
Play for 3 seconds, stand then crouch for 40, play for 3 seconds. Football is slow.
This is why hockey playoffs are the best. The action remains fast and furious, and in overtime the tension continues to build exponentially because it’s sudden death, and then it ends with either a vast explosion of joy or an instantaneous and utterly bewildering deflation.
Was all of that deliberate or just Freudian as hell?
Biggest X factor in the game tonight:
Manu Ginobli did not, I think, make a single good decision with the ball all evening.
Good point. Any real contribution from Ginobli and the Spurs are showering with champagne right now.
I hate Manu.
Two late turnovers? Again? That transcends something, but not in the way you meant. LeBron is the most amazing physical talent to ever play the game, but at crunch time he consistently fails to stake hus claim among the MJ, Magic, Bird, Kobe set. He lacks some mental aspect they had. A great player, yes, one of the best. Transcendent? No, and I think it’s too late to say “not yet.”
One of those turnovers was the result of a good defensive play. I struggle to say there was something “mental” about having the ball poked away on a drive to the hoop. The second one came on a broken play where he made a really poor decision.
I’m not looking to make excuses for the guy. There are no doubt times where his play is downright befuddling. I am often left watching and thinking, “What the fish are you doing?”
However, when it comes to a mental approach to end-game scenarios, I’m not sure it is quite as simple as pounding the air out of the ball and shooting no matter what and declaring anything short of that as being weak-willed or whathaveyou.
We talk about Kobe’s killer instinct, but if you look at the numbers, he’s missed far more big shots than he’s made (the numbers I have here, spanning 1996-2011, show Kobe going 36/115 when tied or trailing by 1/2 points with less than 24 seconds to go). But the narrative is of Kobe as a killer so when he makes the big shot, it confirms our narrative and when he misses it, we say, “Well, he’s made it all those other times.” Only, he hasn’t. By a greater than 2-to-1 margin, he’s missed. (For context, during that period the league average was slightly below his 31.3 mark, but he ranked 6th from the bottom among players with 30+ such shots; LeBron during that period was 23/69 for a 33.3 mark.)
Looking just at the playoffs (through May of 2013), Jordan was 9/18 in such situations, LeBron was 7/16, and Kobe was 5/17.
Now, this ignores turnovers and passes. Turnovers are as bad as a missed shot and a pass really depends on the expected value of the shot not taken versus the shot after a pass. Very hard to calculate. Nonetheless, looking at numbers from from ’03-’09 (playoffs and regular season), LeBron was 17/50 from the field and 14/20 from the line with 6 assists and 4 turnovers; Kobe was 14/56 from the field and 12/15 from the line with 1 assist and 5 turnovers. It is hard to do much with just those raw numbers, but LeBron shot better from the field, probably attacked the basket more (more FTs), committed a similar number of turnovers, but contributed to an addition 5 baskets being made. And this was during Kobe’s peak and before James reached the levels we’ve seen him reach over the past 4 years.
So, really, what is it that you want to see from LeBron that you haven’t? I want to see him be more assertive for 48 minutes; not necessarily dominate the shooting, but to impose his will on the offensive game for a consistent 48 minutes. I don’t much mind how he handled the end-game scenarios yesterday. He went to the hoop and got outplayed by a capable defender. He got caught in a broken play and either made a bad pass or missed his shot terribly (I’m still not sure if that was an ‘oop or a shot). But he singlehandedly kept Miami in the game, offensively and defensively. He put up a goddamn triple-double in an elimination game. He rallied his team from a double-digit deficit. He made a huge 3 pointer in the final minute after missing one moments early and demanding the ball after they recovered the offensive rebound.
He’s not Jordan. But who is? He’s *better* than Kobe, in damn near every measurable number possible, save for Championships. And let’s not forget that Kobe won each of his 5 rings playing alongside the best offensive center in the league (Shaq for the first 3, Gasol or the next two). Neither Jordan nor LeBron ever played with such a dominating post presence.
What I want to see from LeBron is that in crunch time he really really really really wants to be the guy with the ball, like MJ, like Magic, like Bird. That he’s really comfortable with the responsibility. Especially if the numbers show that he’s even better with the ball then than a Kobe (who I don’t think is the greatest crunch time shooter, but who has the crunch time will). LeBron often looks like he’d rather not be the guy with the ball then.
But as I said over at Russell’s blog, that lack of the ultimate killer instinct may mean he’s actually a better, nicer, more generous, less self-centered, person than a Kobe, an MJ (his hall of fame speech was one of the low points in NBA history), even a Bird. (Magic’s unique–killer instinct and perpetual niceness, a truly special person.)
I thought Lebron’s taking those two threes in a row in the final minute of regulation was a pretty big deal. He didn’t hesitate to take either, even the second after he’d missed the first, and clearly wanted to be the one taking them.
This is where I think our memory might be failing us with Jordan.
We tend to see Jordan and Kobe as very similar, at least in terms of mindset. Both were taking the final shot… NO. MATTER. WHAT. Well, that is/was true for Kobe. But not so much for Jordan. Two of Jordan’s championships came on game-winning shots by role players… Paxson in ’93 and Kerr in ’97. On the Paxson play, Jordan brought the ball up but gave it up before reaching half court with less than 10 seconds left. And he assisted on the Kerr play. So while Jordan no doubt had a killer instinct and wanted to be the determining factor in the game, he seemed to recognize that he could be as much in ways other than scoring. He just happened to do it so often via scoring because he was a truly phenomenal scorer.
I think if you asked LeBron what he’d want to do with the game on the line, he’d say something about making the right play. In fact, I believe he said as much when he infamously kicked it out to a teammate for a wide open, potential game winning shot (that missed) in his Cleveland days. I’m paraphrasing, but he said the wide open shot was the better play, the one more likely to win the game, so he made the pass. I bet Jordan would have said something similar, at least during his playing days. I think his own reputation has gone to his head over time and he has become a bit of a caricature of himself.
Where LeBron might suffer is underestimating how much more often him shooting might be the right call. But I think he’s starting to get that. He took three big three point shots at the end of regulation and his late turnovers came as a result of trying to force the action.
Kobe, on the other hand, thinks his number is always the right number. It’s why he ruined things with Shaq, with Phil, with Bynum, with anyone who had the temerity to think that doing something other than a Kobe-iso might be a good call.
This is where I think our memory might be failing us with Jordan.
“Our” is such a polite way of saying “your.” 😉
Ha! I actually thought very much the same of Jordan until I sat down to pen this response.
I was considering doing a separate post entirely exploring the collective skewed perception we’ve developed of Jordan and, as a result, superstars and champions in basketball. I think a weird group of compounding factors having contributed to it, including:
1.) His final shot over Russell
2.) His abrupt second-retirement
3.) The ’99 lockout
4.) The next wave of “superstars” (e.g., Kobe, Iverson, McGrady)
5.) Phil Jackson’s involvement with the Lakers
In a nutshell, the theory is that after Jordan left the second time, basketball hit a bit of malaise. We remember Jordan’s amazing scoring, bristled at the basketbrawl style the Knicks and Heat were playing in the east, were bored with the emerging San Antonio powerhouse, and grabbed at any and everything that reminded us of Jordan. On the way to doing that, we elevated shoot-first wing players like Iverson, Kobe, and McGrady and justified it when Kobe started winning titles. We forgot that those Jordan teams were really defensive juggernauts and as much as Jordan was a dominant force, he never lost sight of doing right by the team once he achieved championship greatness. The Lakers won simply by being better than everyone else, but if you look at most of the other champions since then (Spurs, Pistons, Celtics, recent Heat teams), we see they were much more in the mold of Jordan’s Bulls. Yet it is Kobe and the Lakers that we think of as being like the Bulls because they had Kobe, who reminded us of Jordan, and Phil.
Ha! That’s my “nutshell”. The post would probably push 3,000 words and make Russell hate me.
Eh, young man, I watched Jordan a lot back then. I watched his games live, and my nextdoor neighbor had one of his highlight videos that we used to watch and then try to emulate on a lowered basketball goal. I don’t misremember him. Look at the 70-win team’s roster. Winnington? Kukoc? Harper? Longley? That team was Pippen and Jordan, with Rodman rebounding. What would Lebron have done with that team?
Two things that Jordan had that Lebron doesn’t have: a midrange game and a baseline game. Those negated the sort of paint-packing that the Spurs are using to essentially shut Lebron and Wade down for extended stretches. In fact, those things made Jordan simply unstoppable. His jumpshot was always suspect, at least until his last few years with the Bulls, but he could break down an entire defense off the dribble. At full speed, he could change direction on a dime (Lebron, once he’s moving at full speed, is like a locomotive, and it’s best to just get out of the way), repeatedly making entire teams look bad in one play (watch his baseline dunk over Ewing again). That, and he was so freakishly fast from baseline to baseline that a steal by Jordan meant a one-on-one or uncontested layup almost every time.
Lebron is a great player, a better rebounder than Jordan, and a combination of size and athleticism unlike anything the league has ever seen, but overall he has nothing on Jordan. Neither does Kobe. Jordan made mediocre teams into all-time great teams. Lebron makes very good teams into one of the best teams in the league that season.
I’m not arguing that LeBron is Jordan’s equal. They are vastly different players, as you point out. LeBron has always been more Magic than Jordan in terms of his style of play.
What I’m trying to get at is the mentality that both brought to the game. We tend to see Kobe and Jordan as one-in-the-same in terms of their “killer instinct”. But Kobe always thought his number was the right number to call. This contributed to the above-mentioned stats where he should 30% on game winning attempts and had a 5-year-stretch where he accumulated all of one assist during such situations. That wasn’t Jordan’s game. Jordan made the pass when necessary and as much of a bulldog as he was with his teammates during practices and off-the-court, he worked seamlessly with them on the court.
That is what I’m trying to get at here. Not who was more talented and who did more or whathaveyou. But the mentality with which they approached the game in general and end game scenarios in particular. Kobe is/was a terrible teammate, something you can’t say of either Jordan or LeBron (no matter how many former teammates might have wanted to punch the former).
Yeah, I don’t think Lebron’s mentality is the problem. He’s clearly super-competitive, like any superstar at that level is going to be. I just don’t think he has the game to be dominant in such situations. Wade in his prime was better option, because he was better off the dribble. Lebron’s game is just not built for “as the clock ticks away, isolate me with a defender and let me create a play by either getting a shot or drawing a double and getting the ball to the open man.” That’s not to say he doesn’t do well in that situation sometimes, but against a defense like the Spurs, as motivated as they are, it just doesn’t suit his game.
Look at the 2 threes he took late in the 4th. The first one, he received the ball wide open, and the second one he received the ball even more wide open because everyone was crashing the boards. That’s Pippen, not Jordan.
Zach Lowe, on Grantland.com, has a great breakdown of LeBron’s game with Wade on the court and without Wade on the court. In a nutshell, he shows that the Spurs can pack the paint when Wade is on the court because he isn’t a thread from the perimeter. That means when LeBron drives or even posts, he has no room to operate. When LeBron is on the court with shooters (Miller, Allen, Chalmers), the team is ridiculously efficient, because the team has the proper spacing.
One thing that separates LeBron from the Jordan/Kobe/Wades of the world is his size. Dude is BIG. Like, much bigger than I think we realize. I believe he’s listed at 6-7 but he’s really closer to 6-9. The smaller guys can operate in smaller spaces; it’s physics. So Wade’s sidestep move (which is phenomenal) works because he can slide past a defender and get the couple inches of space he needs to get the shot off. If LeBron sidesteps, he’s halfway across the court. He can’t do what Iverson did and squeeze between the bigs, even if he has the agility and speed and quickness and body control and all that.
I’ve long argued that as NBA players get bigger, faster, and stronger, they need to make the court bigger. Imagine what LeBron would do if the court was 6 feet wider and defenders guarding perimeter players can’t crash the paint. He might be literally unstoppable.
Really what he needs to do is develop his post game. He’s made great strides there but if he could operate off the lower block and add that to what he can do from the elbow extended mixed with his passing ability, then you’d see him able to dominate those late game plays. As it stands now, his options are to either drive into traffic, drive and kick, or just work the elbow area.
I’ve long argued that as NBA players get bigger, faster, and stronger, they need to make the court bigger
This. And given that most arenas are already built to accommodate the much larger hockey rink (200 x 85 feet, compared to a basketball court’s 94 x 50), it should be possible to do at minimal cost. It might be a good idea to adopt the old international trapezoidal key, too, which at the baseline was 20 feet, instead of the rectangular 16 foot key.
Another great Zach Lowe column today, largely about how only idiots (like 90% of the sports media) call every late miscue a “choke”. The best line is part of a discussion of why Duncan was on the bench late in regulation (another thing the idiots screamed about):
The Heat had zero big men on the floor, meaning Duncan, with lots of time on the clock, was going to have to chase either an elite ball handler or an elite shooter (or Dwyane Wade).
The problem is, “Sometimes these things happen,” isn’t much of a narrative for sportswriters. And what would sportswriters do without their precious narratives?!?!
Re: Jordan’s teams, the Bulls went 55-27 the year after Jordan’s first retirement, with very much the same team. This was a 2 game difference from the prior year. Cleveland immediately became a lottery team when LeBron left.
I think you’re underestimating the depth of those Bull teams. They weren’t star-laden outside of Jordan and Pippen, but remember, these teams were much better on the defensive end than the offensive end and had a lot of contributors there (though obviously Jordan and Pippen were elite defenders in their own right).
Kazzy, I was pretty big into the notion that Jordan’s teammates were under-recognized (I was into basketball, once upon a time). It was depressing to me how much they cratered when Jordan left. I mean, I was never a fan of the Bulls. But I also hate being wrong.
They gutted the team after he left the second time. They went 55-27 and 47-35 during his hiatus (he returned for the last bit of that second season). The year after his second retirement saw a starting lineup of Kukoc, Dickey Simpkins, Brent Barry, Mark Bryant, Ron Harper, and Randy Brown (all made 30+ starts during a 50 game season). They lost Jordan, Pippen, Rodman, Longley, and Kerr. They also lost Phil Jackson.
That record from the second season after his departure is deceptive. They were 34-31 when he returned, but then went 13-4 after he got back, to produce that more respectable record. Then, of course, they won 72 games the next season. They had a solid lineup without Jordan, but it was incomplete.
I hated, hated being wrong.
(Want to know something odd about that season? Scottie Pippen was like only the fourth or fifth highest-paid player on the team.)
If basketball were more like baseball, they’d bring the baskets down because everyone like to see dunks.
Three. Two in the last minute of regulation, one in overtime.
It wasn’t transcendent; I don’t know how you can claim half-credit. Showing up n the fourth quarter of an elimination game isn’t transcendent. It was a typical very good LeBron game – a triple-double where he only realized what he needed to do well after he needed to start doing it.
I wouldn’t be surprised, though, to see something transcendent tonight, as I expect him to play like a moan who’s been given a second chance, since that what he’ll be. That said, the bar for transcendent even in the playoffs has fallen. Is he going to score 60? Nope. Are people going to call whatever he does transcendent? Yep. But what will he be transcending other than himself? Diago Splitter could have a self-transcendent game and score 27, but will it really be worth talking about on Friday? Well, since it would likely mean a Spurs Championship, sure, to some extent – but only in that regard, not on its own terms.
…or a man.
Yes. Always forget that.
I like Tiago Splitter – he can clean up the mistakes he makes, and I think he’s going to be quite valuable for quite a long time for some team or teams.
I think the problem with your analysis is that is only looks at a particular piece of the game. LeBron was *phenomenal* on defense for the entire game. Parker went 6-23… 6-23!… in large part because of LeBron’s defense. How would we have responded to a 6-23 effort from LeBron? We’d have torn him to shreds. So why not give him some due for helping to manhandle the other team’s best player into just such an effort.
And if the Heat pull off the win tonight and take the series, it is very possible that the eventual highlight reel will be chock full of moments from his 4th quarter explosion and dominance. We may one day refer to this game as the “No Headband Game”. Silly, I know, but this is what legends are made of.
The Heat won because of LeBron, plain and simple. Not in spite of him, which I think some people would have you believe. A tripe-double in an elimination game, including 32 points against one of the league’s best defenses, dominant defense, and a 4th-quarter run for the ages all qualify this as something more than “typical” or “very good”.
Well, it’s of course not typical of any NBA player’s games. But it’s typical among games that are very good among LeBron’s games, which is what I said. His game is founded on great defense. 6-23 is bad for Tony Parker, but not unheard of. He’s a hampered 31 at the end of a long season; I think that adds up to good defese, not extraordinary. LeBron had six assists in the first quarter, which does mitigate my take on him showing up late, but at the same time, he was down 13 points at the end of the third quarter in an elimination game. it doesn’t seem to me that up to that point he was doing the right things on offense.
Anyway, you can say that’s transcendent of the typical very good NBA player’s typical very good game, but we already gave LeBron credit for transcending that with his established accomplishments. His very good does transcend the “typical” very good, and he turns in his own “very good” performances at a higher rate than is typical. That makes him transcendent of the league in general at this time, but I didn’t take that to be what you were saying. It seems like to be transcendent on a given night means to do something we’ve more or less never seen before. On Tuesday night he transcended neither his own established best nor the greatest performances we have seen in the league to date.
That’s fair. That is why I gave myself “half” credit. I think LeBron gave us a game that, if the Heat win the series*, we’ll talk about for a while. So, I think it has a certain historical relevance. But it doesn’t crack any top 10 lists, either all time or even his own.
* I personally think it is silly that this needs to be a disclaimer, but such is life. What happens tonight won’t change what happened on Tuesday. But that is how we see things. If the Spurs win, we’ll look at Parker’s game 1 shot as magical. If they lose, it’ll be forgotten. That’s silly but it’s reality.
You’re right to resist anyone who said they won in spite of him (didn’t see that myself, but I’m sure they did). Transcendent is kinda vague as I pointed out, but I didn’t how to divide it in half, so I just took it on straight up. Halfway to transcendent isn’t. 😉
He was scendent.
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