Because somehow a Game 5 of the NBA finals with the series tied 2-2 isn’t enough, there seems to be some manufactured drama going regarding LeBron James. And it isn’t even his fault this time.
First comes this from the Associated Press:
Mavericks guard DeShawn Stevenson is directing some sharp words toward Miami’s LeBron James on the eve of Game 5 in the NBA finals. Stevenson says the Heat forward “checked out” in the final minutes of Game 4 on Tuesday night, when James was held to eight points – the lowest he managed in 90 career playoff games.
In general, when you see a controversial quote where only two words are used and not a sentence or paragraph, you should question the context. PBT’s reporters on the ground said Stevenson’s comments on the whole were not that incendiary. Follow up quotes from ESPN Dallas bear that out:
“Dwyane Wade had it going and sometimes you get like that when a player has it going,” Stevenson said Wednesday afternoon…
“Our defense was good, but at the same time he wasn’t in attack mode,” said Stevenson, who scored 11 in Game 4. “We all know that LeBron can get to the basket and when he has his shot going, it’s pretty tough to keep him from the free throw line.”
Besides, didn’t LeBron James say over and over he didn’t play well in Game 4? That’s right, he did Tuesday night and again Wednesday at media availability after practice.
“Definitely didn’t play great offensively,” James said after Tuesday’s Game 4, in which he scored 8 points. “I got to do a better job of being more assertive offensively, not staying out of rhythm offensively the whole game.”
Some are going to try and say Stevenson’s comments fired up LeBron, who will undoubtedly come out much more aggressive in Game 5. Most media see it that way. But LeBron’s play is what should do that — he had Jason Kidd and Jason Terry on him for long stretches of that game and didn’t demand the ball, didn’t attack the mismatch. You can say he “checked out” or “played like Game 5 against Boston last year” or however you wish to define it. Nobody is really denying it, not even LeBron.
Game 5 already has plenty of drama, and how LeBron comes out will be a big part of that game’s story. But these comments have nothing to do with that.
Jason Terry got singled out by Dirk Nowitzki after Game 3. Then Terry talked some smack, saying LeBron James couldn’t keep him down for seven games.
We all chuckled. But after Game 4, Terry is the one laughing.
Terry finished with 17 points, 8 of those coming in the fourth quarter. He attacked the rim off the pick-and-roll. He drained both key late free throws. He wasn’t terribly efficient (6-of-15 shooting, 1-of-4 from three) but in a game where nobody could seem to put the ball in the basket he didn’t need to be.
“The aggression was there for me personally,” Terry said. “And I like that that I was on the attack, which I said I would be.”
Terry attacked LeBron. His first shot in the fourth quarter he got the ball on the wing, went away from the Tyson Chandler screen (before it was really even set) and drove at LeBron to the right, got by him and made the layup. Next trip down on the other side he again attacked off the screen but this time when the help rotated over he weaved into the lane and hit an 10-foot jumper. Those two baskets started the Mavs comeback.
“(LeBron’s) length obviously is going to bother me if I shoot it in his face, it’s going to be contested,” Terry said. “So percentages on those shots are going to go down. But if I can get in the paint and draw the defense and then make the pass or make the shot, then that’s going to be advantageous for us. That’s something I looked to do tonight.”
Terry’s play late was key to the Dallas win. He lived up to what he said and what was expected of him in Game 4.
In Game 5, when we expect to see a more aggressive LeBron, can he do it again? Dallas needs it to happen if they are going to get a ring.
Brendan Haywood gave it a shot on his bad hip, he played 3:05 (time that included a nice rest at the end of the first quarter) but he couldn’t do much. Chris Bosh blew by him like he was statue, Haywood had no lateral movement.
And he admitted to ESPN Dallas the strained right hip flexor may keep him out the rest of the NBA finals.
“It’s a four-to-five-week injury. I’m trying to get out there in four to five days,” Haywood said. “That’s just the situation. It’s a little disheartening, but it is what it is.”
Tyson Chandler had a monster game and so Haywood was not missed in Game 4. But Chandler normally sits about 15 minutes a game and no Haywood would leave the not-ready-for-prime-time Ian Mahinmi as the lone sub. Worse yet would be foul trouble for Chandler.
But Dallas is going to have to deal with it as Haywood looks to be out the rest of the way.