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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Analyzing LeBron James’ 4th Quarter in Game 3: He Passed out of Double-Teams

The Miami Heat have so many weapons, it’s extremely hard to determine a course of action to defend them. The Dallas Mavericks decided in Game 3 they were going to take the ball out of LeBron James’ hand and make his teammates beat them. Their decision was a logical one, even if it didn’t work out.

In all but one possession in the fourth quarter of Game 3, LeBron James was double-teamed at the top of the circle when he brought the ball up. Rather than run pick-and-rolls or have LeBron try to split the defense and beat the double-team, the Heat trusted LeBron to find the open man. Why is that? Because if Dallas puts two people on LeBron, it leaves one of his guys open.

LeBron was credited with four assists in the fourth quarter: one was a pretty bounce pass setting up a Chris Bosh dunk, another where he found the open shooter (Bosh and Chalmers), and the last was a sweet pass to Bosh that put Miami ahead. He also didn’t get credit for assists the times he gave the ball to Dwyane Wade who ended up scoring (seven in a row at one point for Miami). Wade was guarded one-on-one by Jason Kidd. Would you rather have LeBron take on double-teams or pass to Wade who is one-on-one with Kidd? You take Wade on Kidd every time and LeBron’s unselfish enough to know that’s the right play, and it worked out for Miami.

Now LeBron could have done a few things better to play a perfect quarter (based on what the defense gave him). The one time he was guarded man-to-man by Shawn Marion, he drove the lane and ended up with a double dribble because Marion was in his face. LeBron also missed an open three with four seconds left that could have iced the game. On that shot, James curiously decided to dribble instead of catch-and-shoot on the play, but one could argue he was trying to take more time off the clock. The only other reasonable complaint about his offense one could have is that with 3:30 left, LeBron passed to Mario Chalmers in the corner and Chalmers ended up being trapped. LeBron could have easily driven to the hoop on Shawn Marion but instead gave the ball to Chalmers. Chalmers was not open, so the better play for Miami was LeBron driving or trying to score. It was after this play that Dwyane Wade got in LeBron’s face. The announcers mentioned the incident but the cameras didn’t show it.

Additionally, the few possessions Dwyane Wade brought the ball up and was double-teamed, he passed as well. Is that Wade not being assertive? Is that Wade not being the alpha male on the team? No, that’s Wade being smart. Again, any complaints about LeBron James’ play in the fourth quarter that involve anything other than the pass to Chalmers is unwarranted.

Media members are trying to goad LeBron into playing a game of hero ball that is bad for the team, just so he can fit the narrative they want to tell. They want him to swing at pitches five feet off the plate even though the Mavericks are obviously giving him an intentional walk. They complain that LeBron promised he would attack in Game 3 but he didn’t make good on that promise. So what? If a football team tells you they’re going to run the ball but when the game starts they’re faced with nine men in the box, wouldn’t it make sense to adjust the gameplan and pass more? To anyone with half a brain it does, but stubborn media members just want to criticize LeBron James. It’s nonsense, and luckily LeBron isn’t dumb enough to play their game. I’d say he’ll have the last laugh when the Heat win the title, but I know the nit-picky media members will still find some complaints.

Photo Credit: Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

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