Since the NBA introduced the three-point shot in 1979-1980, no starting small forward with any kind of three-point element to his game has ever shot a higher percentage than LeBron James did this season.
But that deft touch has deserted James during four of the five games in these NBA Finals. Even shots in the basket area were a struggle in Game 5.
James’ 43.6 percent shooting in this series is surprising, considering he made 56.5 percent of his shots during the regular season – remarkable for a non-center.
In fact, no starting small forward who made more than two three-pointers in a season ever shot as high a percentage as James did this season. Chris Mullin was closest, at 55.3 percent in 1996-97.
But aside from his exemplary 15 for 25 performance in Game 4, James has been inefficient offensively. He shot 7 for 16 in Game 1, 7 for 17 in Game 2, 7 for 21 in Game 3 and 8 for 22 in Game 5.
Not only did James shoot just 2 for 11 in the second half Sunday, he finished the game 5 for 15 on shots in the paint.
“I think between the two of us, we probably missed 12 layups,” James said of himself and Dwyane Wade. “I missed a lob. I missed two layups, in transition on the same possession. Those are shots we make.”
James shot 1 for 8 Sunday when defended by Boris Diaw, whose length seemed to give him some problems. Conversely, James was 7 for 14 against all other defenders.
“Boris is a pretty good defender,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said. “It gives a different look for LeBron. He looks awkward, but he gets the job done. Every time in Europe he guards guys like that, the fours who can’t really move” – though James moves just fine.
James’ perimeter shooting also has been erratic in this series. He shot a career-high 40.6 percent on three-pointers this season but has hit just 6 of 19 in the Finals (31.6 percent).
His overall shooting percentage in this series is worse than his 47.8 percent accuracy in the 2011 Finals loss to Dallas. James is averaging 21.6 points in the series, compared with 17.8 in the 2011 Finals and 28.6 in the 2012 Finals.
Both teams were off Monday, but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was non-committal when asked Sunday night whether he would stick with Mike Miller as a starter for a third game in a row or go back to Udonis Haslem. For the second consecutive game, Miller went scoreless on 0-for-1 shooting Sunday.
ABC’s Magic Johnson implored Spoelstra to resume using forward/center Chris Andersen, who did not play in either of the past two games.
“They’re going to [need] some energy,” Johnson said. “And only one guy can provide that – Chris Andersen. He needs minutes.”
The Heat was outscored by 20 points in Haslem’s nine minutes off the bench in Game 5. But the Heat outscored the Spurs by seven when Chris Bosh was in the game.
• Without elaborating, Wade said “a small” adjustment will be needed in the Heat’s strategic approach in Game 6.
“Just like the adjustment they made with throwing more isolations at Tony Parker,” Wade said. “Didn’t necessarily win the game, but it helped. It changed things.”
• The Spurs shot 60 percent in Game 5 – something no team had done against Miami in the regular season. (Detroit shot 58.1 percent in a win in December.) Elias said only twice in his career has a team featuring James allowed that high a percentage – once with Cleveland and once with the Heat, both in the regular season.
“It’s pretty obvious that we didn’t give that same defensive effort that we had in Game 4 and they picked us apart,” Bosh said. “We had mental lapses early, we were cross-matched trying to run to our guys, and they got easy baskets. Defenses win championships. I hate to be cliché, but we can’t give up [114-plus] points.”
• The Heat’s point guard play has deteriorated in the past week.
After an impressive showing earlier in postseason, Norris Cole has shot just 6 for 22 in the Finals. And after his 19-point, no-turnover gem in Game 2, Mario Chalmers scored 13 points on 4-for-19 shooting in the past three games, with more turnovers (10) than assists (7).
“We haven’t been getting the same looks we had in Game 2,” Chalmers said.
• Ray Allen is 11 for 17 on three-pointers in this series after finishing 4 for 4 on Sunday.
With 45 career threes in the Finals, Allen surpassed Michael Jordan for fourth on the all-time list, behind Robert Horry (56) and Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher (48 apiece).
Allen also became the first player in NBA Finals history with two four-point plays in the same game.