LeBron James

The 2014 Eastern Conference Finals have started. Care to join us, LeBron?

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LeBron James didn’t even touch the ball until the Heat’s fifth possession – and he had to grab a rebound to get his hands on it.

After hitting the glass, he dribbled the length of the floor, exploded into the paint and made a layup over a backtracking Paul George.

LeBron certainly didn’t play poorly in the Heat’s Game 1 loss to the the Pacers on Sunday. He finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals.

He just didn’t assert himself, at least by his standards. To get those impressive numbers, he really made the most of limited opportunities.

Including regular season and playoffs, LeBron averages a touch every 30 seconds. Sunday, he touched the ball just once per 44 seconds – by far a season high time between touches.

Here are LeBron’s game-by game seconds per touch this season (regular season in red, first round against Bobcats in blue, second round against Nets in black, Game 1 against Pacers in gold).

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In all, LeBron had just 56 touches in 41 minutes Sunday. He had fewer touches just thrice this season – a pair of wins over the last-place Bucks and a victory over the Spurs in which he played a season-low 28 minutes.

Usually, LeBron better picks his spots to defer. In the 20 previous games this season he had the fewest touches, the Heat went 19-1.

But Miami needed LeBron more involved Sunday.

Paul George deserves credit for blanketing LeBron. That doesn’t explain why LeBron passively waited beyond the arc so often.

It certainly wasn’t to conserve energy for defense.

LeBron didn’t defend well, and he didn’t make the mark he can offensively. His numbers were good, and so was his play. Merely good just isn’t the standard for LeBron.

Often, unfairly, we’ve demanded more and more from LeBron. But had he even  been as involved Sunday as often as he usually is, that would have made a significant difference. Not only would he have been in position to score more, having the ball would have forced the Pacers defense to collapse more often created open shots for his teammates.

For the Heat to overcome their 1-0 series deficit, they need LeBron to assert himself. Teammates ignoring him is not an excuse for a player of his caliber. He has the cache to demand the ball.

He needs to do it.

LeBron James says he doesn’t see Cavaliers-Warriors as rivalry

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers passes while under pressure from Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on December 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Tyronn Lue said Cavaliers-Warriors could eventually match Celtics-Lakers as a rivalry.

First, if you ask LeBron James, Cleveland-Golden State would have to become a rivalry at all.

LeBron, via Joe Vardon Cleveland.com:

“We don’t look at it as a rival,” James said. “They’re a great team. They’ve been the best team the last couple years, last three years.”

“It’s just the next game, it’s Golden State,” James said. “They’re a helluva team, like I said the best team in the league and they’ve been that way the last three years, four years, however long it’s been, I’m not quite sure. But, listen, you guys know, we don’t put all our eggs in one basket for one game.”

Of course, Cavaliers-Warriors is a rivalry. These teams have met in the last two NBA Finals, played each other with relentless intensity, talked plenty of trash and remained elite.

LeBron just doesn’t want the Cavs to become comfortable. They’ve beat Golden State in four straight games – the last three of the 2016 Finals and on Christmas – and could extend the streak to five today. Beating a rival that frequently is a cause for celebration, and celebration leads to contentment. LeBron would rather keep Cleveland focused and hungry. Hence, saying the Warriors aren’t a rival.

Andre Drummond hits 3-pointer from inside Pistons’ own 3-point arc (video)

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Andre Drummond is really good at these deep heaves.

His 3-point percentage (44%) is even better than his free-throw percentage (38%) the last two years, though that says too much about his work from the line.

Drummond wasn’t the only Pistons player converting to end quarters. Ish Smith and Tobias Harris also stepped up in the Pistons’ 102-97 win over the Lakers:

NBA: Suns got away with offensive foul before key points in win over Spurs

Phoenix Suns Devin Booker acknowledges a foul as San Antonio Spurs Tony Parker lies crumpled on the floor, in the second half of their regular-season NBA basketball game in Mexico City, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
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Devin Booker scored 39 points in the Suns’ 108-105 win over the Spurs on Saturday in Mexico City.

But Booker’s last four – which put Phoenix up for good – came directly after incorrect calls, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.

First, Booker drew a (legitimate) foul on Pau Gasol with 1:08 left and made both free throws. The problem: One second before that, Suns center Tyson Chandler should have been called for offensively fouling Tony Parker, according to the league:

Chandler (PHX) sets the screen on Parker (SAS) and makes leg to leg contact that affects his ability to defend the play.

That would’ve ended Phoenix’s possession rather than allowing Booker to get to the line.

The other missed call in the two-minute report is trickier, because it directly benefitted the Spurs but indirectly benefitted the Suns.

Manu Ginobili got away with travelling with 59.1 seconds left, according to  the league:

Ginobili (SAS) moves his pivot foot.

But he coughed up the ball moments later anyway, and – thrilled to gain possession with a live-ball turnover rather than a dead-ball turnover – Booker turned the miscue into a fastbreak dunk.

Rather than debate how to evaluate San Antonio getting away with a travel and it ultimately helping Phoenix more, let’s stick to just the uncalled Chandler offensive foul. That netted the Suns two points. Their lead when the Spurs began intentionally fouling? One.

Russell Westbrook puts up 20th triple-double of season, lifts Thunder past Kings (VIDEO)

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Through 41 games — half the season — Russell Westbrook is averaging 30.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.5 assists a game. Those numbers are insane, particularly considering his 42 percent usage rate. He has to put up numbers and do so fairly efficiently or the Thunder stand no chance of winning — and he has the Thunder on pace for 48 wins this season.

The Thunder picked up another of those wins Sunday night knocking off the Sacramento Kings behind Westbrook’s 20th triple-double in 41 games — 36 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. The video highlights are above.

It’s going to be fun watching him and James Harden go back-and-forth in the MVP race for the next few months.