LeBron on 2nd-half strategy shift: 'They backed off me and I shot it, it was that easy for me'

by Jun 9, 12:23 AM
Mike Stone / Reuters

LeBron James had one of the most unique games imaginable in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night. His Miami Heat won to even the series at 1-1, which is obviously the most important note, but James turned in a virtuoso performance in the face of criticism after cramps forced him from Game 1.

By the end of the game, James had 35 points, 10 rebounds and three assists, having shot 14-of-22 from the floor. His final line does little justice to how interesting his performance actually was when sliced into smaller chunks.

First, James started off cold, shooting 1-of-4 in the first quarter with three turnovers. His misses, though, came from good spots on the floor, with a miss at the rim and two other short mid-range misses.

"I had a slow start but all my misses were in the paint," James said following the game. "I just got off to a slow start. I was very confident with where I was getting on the floor."

That understanding of process over results kept James in attack mode, and it paid off handsomely in the second quarter as he took seven shots, none of them outside of the restricted area, making five.

In the second half, however, the Spurs began to give James a little more space, daring him to take mid-range jumpers. It's a tough trade-off since James has made himself into a great mid-range shooter, but it generally beats him causing havoc with drives to the rim. James, well, he obliged.

"In the second half, they backed off me and I shot it," James said. "It was that easy for me."

And easy was it ever, as James proceeded to rain in jumpers from all around the court, shooting 8-of-11 and 3-of-3 from long range in the second half, never once shooting from inside the paint.

The result was one of the strangest quarter-by-quarter shot charts imaginable, with James shooting almost exclusively from inside the paint at first and then exclusively outside of it afterward:

Naturally, he was very effective in both cases:

What's more, his dominance in both modes scrambled the Spurs' defense, so on a key late play he drew a great deal of attention. Driving around a screen and getting a step on Kawhi Leonard, James had the attention of all five Spurs' defenders. Manu Ginobili couldn't safely help off of Ray Allen, leaving Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw to make tough decisions helping off the corners.

Duncan helped hard, and the result was one of the most important baskets of the game:

"I caught Tim Duncan kind of peeking at me a little bit and found CB in the corner," James explained. "His favorite spot."

His favorite spot indeed - Bosh shot 35.2 percent on corner threes during the season and that make made him a ridiculous 15-of-25 (60 percent) so far in the playoffs. If you're Duncan, though, the alternative is a James drive to the rim, so what do you do?

Notes and Quotes

*When asked if James had ditched his usual long tights due to the heat from Game 1, James instead said he saw a video of himself playing without them from Game 2 of the 2012 NBA Finals and decided to make the switch back.

"Just a little crazy on my part," he said. Okay then.

*James also said he didn't do anything differently than he normally does on game days, except for an 8 a.m. yoga session at the team hotel with three other people "and a little kid."

He also didn't want to dwell on Thursday's Game 1, saying, "What happened on Thursday was Thursday."

*James politely disagreed with the Flagrant 1 call on Mario Chalmers for catching Tony Parker with an elbow when driving, saying, "I didn't think it was intentional," which technically doesn't matter (a Flagrant 1 is simply unnecessary contact, with or without mens rea).

Feature photo courtesy of Mike Stone / Reuters