Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Cavs-Celtics: A funk LeBron shouldn't shoot his way out of

Posted By on Tue, May 13, 2008 at 4:01 PM

lebron%20slump.jpg During the post-game press conference after Cleveland’s 88-77 victory over the Celtics, coach Mike Brown was asked about LeBron’s poor shooting in the series so far. He responded by saying that King James is going to come out of his current funk, and that he told his superstar that if he’s open for a three-pointer 12 times, that he should shoot 12 times – just keep throwing the ball up there. He followed that by saying he kept telling James to remain aggressive and keep going to the hole. These seem like two disparate ideas, one of which hypothetically and logically makes perfect sense, and the other, well, the other sounds like the scheme of a coach on the take with big money against his own team. Can you guess which is which? ... When a superstar goes through a shooting funk like LeBron is in right now – 26 percent from the field in the series so far – it is natural to emphasize the temporary nature of the drought. The performance is surely not going to continue much longer. What’s silly, however, is to tell your superstar, or any player for that matter, to hoist shot after shot in search of that missing rhythm. Isn’t this what Sasha Pavlovic and Larry Hughes were known for this season? If this was sometime during the regular season, there would be no problem with LeBron taking a game or two to throw up dozens of shots in the hopes of recovering his stroke. It’s the Eastern Conference Semifinals, however, and regardless of the fact that the Cavs won, this sort of philosophy doesn’t bode well with the Cavs needing a win on the road to advance. Sure, LeBron hit a pretty clutch three-pointer in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, but with the exception of one other bomb from behind the arc, LeBron made a grand total of zero shots outside of the paint. 7-20 for the game from the field. Five of those seven on lay-ups. Fans know well how to describe the offense on the possessions where LeBron missed a jumper: Dribble. Dribble. Dribble. Dribble. Six seconds left on the shot clock. Dribble. Dribble. Off-balance jumper. That is not quality, even if it sometimes works out. The reason everyone was so glowingly ecstatic over LeBron’s super-human/emphatic/posterizing dunk over Kevin Garnett in the fourth quarter was as much about LeBron’s ability to get to the lane past two Boston defenders as it was about the dunk itself. After the game, LeBron said, “That was a play we needed,” talking about the dunk. And it was, undoubtedly, because chances are good that if LeBron hoisted another jumper, he would have missed. Game 5, in Boston on Wednesday night, is not the time for LeBron to try and shoot himself out of this funk. Mike Brown said before the game that he wanted his players to drive the lane on every possession, and multiple times if necessary, which is a scheme that worked wonders for the Cavs offense in Game 4. Doesn’t quite jive with the “take 12 three pointers if you want” advice to his superstar, does it? While it’s pretty silly to doubt for a second that LeBron could toss up a shot every time he touched the ball and tally a 50-spot Wednesday, it’s unlikely considering the last four games. If the Cavs are going to win on the road and give themselves a chance to close out the heavily favored Celtics at home on Friday, LeBron has to do more of what everyone is talking about today – drive to the hole, finish with authority, and hope his teammates continue to make shots. – Vince the Polack

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