He will be remembered by averaging just 17.8 points, nine fewer than his regular-season scoring average, passing the ball like a hot potato and not scoring much in the fourth quarter in these Finals. It was a stunning letdown considering that James has widely been viewed as the best basketball player pound for pound in the world
Even though it’s obvious that LeBron played poorly [for his standards] IMHO in most of those comments there’s one glaring term missing: Mavs’ defense so I’ve decided to investigate this topic.
I started with a big-picture, here are LeBron’s worst numbers against the same team in the regular season:
There are three teams on both lists: Clippers, Sixers and Mavericks.
Thanks to LeBron’s gamelog we can find out that one bad performance against Clippers was in a blowout win and by a nice coincidence we have a bigger sample size [playoffs] for two other teams.
In five games in the first round against Sixers LeBron averaged only 1,4 turnovers per game and his Game Score was 22,82 so either regular season numbers were a fluke or he simply had figured out Sixers’ defense.
But in the Finals against Dallas LeBron played poorly AGAIN with Game Score = 13,68 and 4 TOs per game.
EDIT: if you prefer point of view by Wins Produced the story is the same.
So here’s my question: why LeBron’s struggles are not attributed entirely to Mavs’ defense?
What’s more, basic statistics tell us one more thing:
LeBron used unusually low number of possessions for shots – his average for FGA+0,44*FTA in the Finals was 16,47 while in the regular season he averaged 22,5 IN FEWER MINUTES PER GAME.
With all that in mind I watched 3 full games in a row [3, 4 and 5] and one thing stood out for me:
Mavs’ game plan to slow down LeBron was surprisingly simple – they did everything they could to turn him into a point guard and Wade into alpha dog by following only 3 steps…
- Defend Wade 1-on-1 with weaker defender as often as possible
- Double-team LeBron as often as possible, especially by packing the paint on drives to the basket
- Pressure nominal point guard so ball would go straight to LeBron
That way he had more favorable matchup than LeBron so it was logical to run a lot of action through him.
In a related note Wade scored more points per game in the Finals than in the regular season even though he missed parts of Game 5 because of injuries.
That way it was a logical move for him to pass to open teammates. In a related note in those six games he attempted maximum of 4 free throws in a single game… while his regular season average was over 8!
That way LeBron started possessions as a point guard… and he acted like one because it was logical for his team!
What do you think about those observations? Have I missed something?
And could this strategy work for every team or Mavs simply had right personel to execute it?