LeBron James dominated the Miami Heat’s Thursday night game against the Orlando Magic. After hitting his first 11 shots and dropping 23 on Orlando in the first quarter alone, James finished with 51 points (on a mere 25 shots), 14 rebounds, and eight assists and led the Heat to a win that wasn’t quite as close as the final margin suggests. It was an incredible and historic individual performance, and hopefully those who watched LeBron do his thing were fully aware of the night’s magnitude.
Still, it was a bit odd that even though LeBron James put up one of the most dominant and efficient nights of his career, he did so while shooting almost exclusively jumpers. I’m not sure there’s a book on how to defend LeBron James, but if one were written, the contents of its pages would detail the virtue of forcing James to take as many long jumpers as possible. He’s a capable jumpshooter, but those looks put much less pressure on any defense tasked with stopping him, and generally lead to less efficient offensive performance than his drives to the basket.
Technically, the Magic did exactly what they should have done, and yet James torched them nonetheless. Magic GM Otis Smith can apparently sleep soundly knowing that fact, judging from this quote via Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel:
A night after LeBron James said he was inspired by Magic GM Otis Smith’s [off-season] comments to score 51 points against Orlando Thursday night, Smith joked Friday, “I’d let LeBron score 52 if all he took were jump shots.” James made 17-of-25 shots in Miami’s 104-100 win, most of them from the outside, seldom taking his 6-8, 260-pound frame inside. “He could score 100 if all he took were jumpers,” Smith said.
It wasn’t a matter of scheme that killed Orlando, just a matter of LeBron.