LeBron James Gets Back in Ultra-Efficient Form vs. Dallas Mavericks

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LeBron James Gets Back in Ultra-Efficient Form vs. Dallas Mavericks
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MIAMI -- It is one of the rites of sports passage, fathers and sons carrying on conversations in the car, about everything and anything in the youth game that just ended.

This chat was a bit unique, however.

This one occurred Thursday between LeBron James and LeBron James, Jr., or Bronnie, and it concerned a statistical level that few people scale.

"He's like, 'Yeah, I had a triple-double!'" the elder James recalled Friday.

Not quite. While Bronnie's stat line of 25 points, eight rebounds and eight assists was spectacular, even against fellow nine-year-olds, it still came up a bit short of that standard.

"I had to explain it to him, that you need 10 rebounds and 10 assists," James said.

On some future night, James will show his son, by recording one of his own on the floor. Friday night, in a 110-104 win against the Mavericks, he showed the kid something else:

How to make the most of his shots.

Since James signed with the Miami Heat in 2010 and started working with Erik Spoelstra, one number has come to matter to James more than any other: shooting percentage. After connecting at a 50.3 percent clip his final season with Cleveland, he's been at 51, 53.1 and 56.5 in the three seasons since. Though nagged at times by a sore lower back, he was at 58.6 percent entering Friday.

James alternated makes and misses on his first four attempts.

Then the climb began.

Three layups to close the quarter.

Two more in the second quarter, followed by a missed jumper.

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Then, in the third, a dunk, a three, a midrange pull-up, a turnaround out of the post -- exploiting the smaller Monta Ellis -- and a long pull-up.

"Obviously, you guys know from the day I got here to now, where my post game to mid-range game has gone," James said. "So, just trying to get better, evolve my game where I feel comfortable in every spot on the floor. I feel great."

The Mavericks kept sending different matchups at him, a wide range of width and length and speed: from Ellis to Shawn Marion to Dirk Nowitzki to Jae Crowder to DaJuan Blair.

James kept scoring.

After sitting the first 5:13 of the fourth quarter, James would score 10 more points, six at the line, two on a 20-footer and two at a critical time in a stylish matter, following Dirk Nowitzki's signature step-back, knee up jumper with one of his own on the other end.

That put the Heat ahead 102-99.

Was that imitation intended to send some sort of message, to the player most responsible for James being denied his first championship in 2011?

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"No, it was a show of respect," James said. "Dirk is one of my favorite guys. I love the way he approaches the game, the way he plays the game, he's amazing, obviously, we all know that. But I took that from him. I don't do that as well as him, though. He's been doing it a lot longer than me."

The respect was reciprocated.

"He's worked so much on his three ball so you don't want to just give him threes and he's so good at going to the basket you don't want to just let him go to the basket," Nowitzki said. "What you sometimes give up is the in-between game, but he looked really comfortable today. He was jabbing, making his in-between shots, so when he makes that it's tough to guard him because he can get to the basket at will, he made his in-between shot, and he made the three. He's tough to unguardable and when we do trap him, he's probably the best passer."

By game's end, James had 39 points on just 18 shots, epic efficiency that was necessary in light of Nowitzki scoring 28 points on just 12 shots.

"When he's not taking throwaway shots, he's skilled enough to shoot an extremely high percentage," Heat Spoelstra said.

James' offensive excellence helped the Heat top triple digits for the ninth straight game to start the season, if by a somewhat different method. Miami entered the game atop the NBA in assist percentage, but dropped to second behind the Atlanta Hawks after recording assists on only 17 of 40 baskets.

Still, while that statistic suggests a bit more one-on-one play than usual, the Heat didn't appear selfish.

Is this their best offensive stretch since James joined Miami?

"Yeah," James said. "Yeah. We love the way we're sharing the ball. When we share the ball like we've been doing this part of the season, offensively we can't be stopped, because you don't know where it's coming from, everyone is always live, everyone has an equal opportunity to go. It's fun to play in a system like this, where everyone is unselfish, no one cares who scores or not."

So far this season, James has attempted 11, 17, 19, 14, 20, 13, 13, 21 and 18 shots.

Carmelo Anthony has attempted at least 21 shots for the New York Knicks in six of eight games.

Rudy Gay attempted 37, albeit in double overtime, for the Toronto Raptors against the Houston Rockets early this week. He scored 29 points.

"You give me 37 shots in a game, I'll have a cool 67," James said. "I mean, I had 40 tonight on 18 shots. If I get 37 shots in a game, I'm going to put up 60, easy. It'd have to be five or six overtimes, where I'm feeling good. But I don't know the last time I took 30 shots in a game."

It was actually Jan. 27, 2013, in Boston, in overtime. He took 31, and scored 34 points. That was the only time last season. It didn't happen at all the season prior.

"Our team is not predicated on that," James said. "But if I get 37 attempts, I'm going to make 25 of them."

Friday, he needed to make the most of whatever shots he took.

He did.

Maybe that will make an impression at home, not just on the older son creeping close to triple-doubles, but the younger one (Bryce) who had his own contest scheduled for Saturday.

"I just have to hold up my end of the bargain," James said. "It's a very competitive household these days."

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