Why Does LeBron James Take Shots He Wants Opponents Taking?

Ethan Sherwood StraussNBA Lead WriterApril 16, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 15: (L) Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks drives against (R) LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden on April 15, 2012 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

After Carmelo Anthony's huge 42-point performance against the Heat, LeBron James was not one to beat up Miami's defense.

"He's making contested twos. That's what our defense is built around," James told Lisa Salters and ABC in the postgame interview.

I actually admire James' honesty here. Most sports analysis is results-based, and LeBron often talks process. On that alone, he could replace 60 percent of studio hosts and I would applaud. If he replaced Shaq, I'd clap hard enough to crush a brick between my palms, or hard enough to crush my palms into a brick.

James has taken this "contested" tack before, most notably after a loss to the Celtics. ESPN's Brian Windhorst recorded the superstar's Bron-chalance in the wake of a home defeat: 

"We left Boston feeling awful at our performance. I don't feel as bad tonight. Not only did they make the open shots, but they made all the contested shots."

While I like the process-based analysis, I don't get why James would say that himself and proceed to take so many long, contested twos himself. In Sunday's game, LeBron had five makes and seven misses from outside the paint. Carmelo had five makes and four misses from that range. To my eyes, LeBron was taking just as many, if not more, of these undesirable shots as his opponent. 

James is not a bad shooter from this range (45 percent on long twos last year), but he's been far from splendid this season (39 percent). He's also hoisting 5.7 tries from between 16-23 feet per game.

Obviously, a player needs to take the occasional long two just to keep a defense as honest as LeBron in postgame interviews. But it's odd that James takes so many when he knows the odds are against him.