“I’ve never seen LeBron as passive,” observed TV analyst Charles Barkley.
LeBron has averaged as much as 35.3 points in a single postseason; one year ago he averaged 30.3 to lead Miami’s championship – almost single-handedly swamping Boston with an offensive barrage in the conference finals, remember.
James has scored 18, 17 and now 15 points in the three Finals games.
Tuesday was his eighth straight playoff game not shooting over 50 percent from the field. He is 21-for-54, less than 40 percent, in the Finals.
“LeBron is missing shots that LeBron makes,” said Wade.
These are small sample sizes, but it seems fair to say the James we have seen lately – at least offensively – is more eerily reminiscent of the man we saw sputter through the 2011 Finals loss to Dallas than the player who has been all but unstoppable since.
Miami lost Game 1 in this series despite LeBron’s selfless triple-double.
Miami won Game 2 almost despite LeBron – a rarity.
Miami lost Game 3 in part because LeBron was invisible offensively until finally awakening late in the third period. TOO late.
Spoelstra has spent much of this postseason saying it was on him to find a way to get a struggling Wade and Chris Bosh going – to put them in positions where they can be comfortable and be aggressive.
Time to turn that emphasis toward unlocking his best player offensively.
The balance of the Heat’s Big 3 contributed some – but only to a point.
Wade had a very active 12-point first half on 5-for-7 shooting but for a third straight game faded in the second half, adding only four more points.
Bosh had 12 points and 10 rebounds, but enthusiasm must be tempered by noting that’s below his season scoring average, too.
Together the triumvirate of James, Wade and Bosh combined for a mere 43 points – inviting a connotation of the phrase “Big 3” that is less complimentary than mocking.
What’s ahead now for Miami seems daunting.
The Spurs have the best home record in the league since moving into this building in 2002, and Miami sure has contributed, falling Tuesday to 3-23 all-time at San Antonio.
Now, the Heat must find a way to win one of the next two games here – Thursday or Sunday – to stretch the Finals back to Miami. And the Heat must win both of these next two games here to prevent having to win both Games 6 and 7.
All of this against the historical weight of 92 percent of all Finals being won by the Game 3 winner of a series that was 1-1.
Can the Heat slay that trend and fight those fresh new odds to still repeat as champs?
But not if the Heat’s Big 3 – individually and collectively – continue to perform well below their season averages.
And especially not if LeBron James continues to fall so short of the offensive brilliance and dominance it has been so easy to take for granted.