Besides the fact that the Spurs are up, 2-1, in this series, despite the fact that the Heat have just suffered the third-worst single-game defeat in NBA Finals history and ignoring the record-setting Game 3 the Spurs had from three-point land in knocking down 16 treys, the most troubling visual from Game 3 of the 2013 NBA Finals was this:
It's starting to look eerily similar to the 2011 NBA Finals.
Let's get straight to the point—the Heat are playing bad. They're still a mess offensively. Chris Bosh continues to no-show. Ray Allen looks every bit his age (he'll be 38 years old this summer). LeBron is shooting just 21-of-54 from the field in this series—a horrid 38.8 percent that looks very similar to the 35.5 percent he shot vs. the Spurs back in the 2007 NBA Finals.
Which brings us to what will be the main topic of discussion following this blowout loss—the play of LeBron James.
Let's flash back to the 2011 NBA Finals. The first season in which the "Big Three" played together and their first finals appearance as a trio.
During that season, LeBron and Dwyane Wade split duties as the "go-to" guy. Wade was still at the top of his game and averaged 25.5 PPG on 50 percent shooting from the field during the regular season, while posting similar totals in the postseason, going for 24.5 PPG on 49 percent shooting.
LeBron put up 26.7 PPG on 51 percent shooting, along with his usual all-around play—7.5 RPG to go along with 7.0 dimes per outing.
However, it was in the postseason where LeBron started separating himself from Wade. In a pivotal Eastern Conference Finals matchup with Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls—if it wasn't for Rose's MVP victory over runner-up LeBron in '11, James would have won five straight MVP awards by now—James stepped up to lead the Heat to the NBA Finals vs. the Dallas Mavericks.
This is pivotal in recapping what happened two seasons prior, because what happened in the '11 finals is starting to happen again two years later in the '13 finals, albeit, different opponents—LeBron is taking a step back from the spotlight, and Wade is starting to dominate the ball.
What people will focus on after this game is LeBron's lackluster play. And yes, it is true that he is playing "bad" by his standards. The fact that Spurs forward Danny Green is outscoring the MVP of this league, 56-50, through three games, is one of the more telling statistics of this series.
Yes, it's true that Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard is playing some excellent defense on LeBron. Yes, it's a given that Gregg Popovich is devising a defensive game plan that is limiting LeBron's drives to the hoop, forcing him to become purely a jump shooter.
But one of the main issues at hand—that won't be focused on—is Wade's dominance of the ball.
Somehow, someway, and only those in the Heat locker room know the reason why, Wade has become the Heat's first option and ball distributor.
Ignore the fact that LeBron is the one who carried this underachieving squad through the postseason into the finals. Ignore the fact that LeBron was one vote away from becoming the only unanimous MVP award winner in NBA history. Ignore the fact that Wade and Bosh have been stinking up the joint with careers lows in PPG during the postseason.
Somehow, coach Erik Spoelstra and the Heat have decided to put the ball in Wade's hands—at the expense of LeBron.
Does that mean that it's Wade's fault for LeBron underperforming? Does that mean that it's Spolstra's fault for LeBron's inability to put the ball through the hoop and find the free throw-line?
However, the Heat's shift in offensive philosophy to focus on Wade more as an offensive playmaker in an effort to jump start his mediocre play throughout this postseason is actually doing more damage than good—it's negating the best player in the world's impact on offense.
Of the Heat's first 12 points on the board, Wade either scored, or assisted on 10 of those 12 points. LeBron took just two shots in the first quarter. He ended up taking seven total by the end of the first half.
Entering this series, Bosh's and Wade's struggles were a focal point. The criticism was heaped on them for the Heat's struggles during the Indiana Pacers series, as both Wade and Bosh had sub-14 PPG averages entering the NBA Finals.
And it's led to this—Spoelstra, LeBron and the Heat are trying so hard to get Wade and Bosh out of their shooting slumps, that, as a result, is putting the Heat in even more of an offensive slump.
There was Wade, bringing the ball up court all first quarter, making LeBron look like a second option—just like the 2011 NBA Finals.
Wade had reason to do this in the NBA Finals two years ago—he and James were much closer in terms of production and skill. They were literally 1A and 1B for most of the season. Add in the fact that LeBron was shying away from the grand stage every chance he got and Wade was left with no choice but to try to dominate that series.
However, LeBron is a lot different now than he was two years ago. He's coming off one of the most efficient seasons in NBA history. According to Basketball-Reference.com, his PER rating of 31.59 in 2012-13 is the seventh-highest in NBA history.
He's an effective jump shooter. He's an effective three-point shooter. He just shot a mind-boggling 56.5 percent from the field this past season. We could go on and on about his abilities and statistics as a basketball player.
Which leads to the main question: Why are the Heat giving the keys to the driver's seat to Wade again?
LeBron needs to step up. That is a given.
If there was one bright spot on Tuesday night for "The King," it was that he was 5-or-7 from inside the paint. However, outside of the paint, he was 2-of-14 on shots.
Danny Green, according to Matt Moore of CBSSports.com, had this to say about LeBron's struggles, thus far, in the finals:
LeBron is not just us stopping him. He's kind of stopped himself out there and we're getting a little lucky.
Obviously we're making it tough for him. But you guys have seen him all year at his best, and how he can perform. Obviously he's not doing that right now. I don't know what it is.
That's certainly one reason for LeBron's struggles. He obviously needs to be more efficient and assertive.
But the one thing that is out of LeBron's hands—and needs to be corrected in time for Game 4 before the Heat loses their grip on this series?
They need to give the keys to the driver's seat back to "The King."
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