NBA Finals 2012: Aggressiveness of LeBron James Will Lead Heat to Title
The Miami Heat have cracked the code to beating the Oklahoma City Thunder:
While this may not be earth-shattering news, it’s the way they have been using James that has given the Heat a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals with two more home games on deck.
He is finally being aggressive with the ball in his hands and isn’t settling for jumpers. The proof is in this stat from Ethan Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post:
Covered this in column, but here's one stat that tells difference in LeBron.. 2011 Finals (6 games) = 20 FTA. 2012 Finals (3 games): 29 FTA.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) June 18, 2012
He has averaged 30.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and four assists through three games in the series. According to the Miami Herald, not since 1969 (John Havlicek, Boston Celtics) has a non-center put up incredible numbers like that in a NBA Finals series.
What makes these numbers even better is the fact he is doing it against Kevin Durant.
Nobody has been able to consistently get Durant in foul trouble until the last two games, and it was the catalyst for Game 3. Durant was banished to the bench with four fouls roughly halfway through the third quarter and the Heat promptly erased an 10-point deficit and entered the fourth quarter with a two-point lead.
They never looked back.
In Game 3, James outscored Durant 8-4 in the fourth quarter; making 4-of-5 free throws in the process. He is staying aggressive for all four quarters now and isn’t settling for contested jumpers.
It’s pretty simple: James is 250 pounds and has tree trunks for legs. He is impossible to move on the block and is like a freight train when he drives to the basket. He even grabbed five offensive rebounds as he moved with the sort of aggressiveness without the ball we haven’t seen before.
His 14 boards were nine more than Serge Ibaka had on Sunday.
Roughly averaging 10 free-throw attempts per game is just where he needs to be, and as long as the Thunder continue to foolishly allow Durant to guard him, it’s the perfect scenario for Miami. Get easy points while forcing their best scorer to play tentatively? Sounds like a plan.
Yes, I know the Heat were up 2-1 in last year’s NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks before losing three straight, but this year seems very different. LeBron knows he can’t go through another year of jokes and criticism about his ringless finger. There is only one thing that matters to him at this point.
James is more determined than ever. He knows the best chance to get there is by shooting high-percentage shots in the paint. The Thunder have to make him fall back in love with his jumper.
What they’ll find is that there is no way to do so. LeBron is on a mission.
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