LeBron James Knows His Strengths, and That's Big for the Heat
LeBron James had a monster Game 2 due in large part to his outside shot. He shot 8 for 11 from outside the paint, including 3 for 3 from the three-point line, all in the second half. However, the key to the Spurs' troubles was not Bron Bron's jumper.
Critics have always knocked LeBron for his "mediocre" outside shot, and he's answered these critics with continued improvement. LeBron shot just under 38% from three this season, and he's shooting 40% from three during the Heat's current playoff run. The King has fallen in love with his shot at times, but from time to time, it's been to the detriment of his ultimate cause - winning games and championship rings. His true strength lies, as it always has, in his athleticism and ability to get to the rim at will.
In his career, LeBron has shot 19% better from two (53%) than he has from three (34%). It comes as no surprise then that he's averaged 8.5 two-point field goals compared to 1.3 three-point makes per contest throughout his career. An even more telling number is that James has taken 34% of his field goal attempts from inside three feet. But more importantly, even with his improved jumper, this percentage is at its peak at nearly 40%. LeBron's two-point field goal percentage this year is also at a career high 62% thanks to career high field goal percentages from 0 to 3 feet (79%) and 3 to 10 feet (55%).
It's clear that the King has learned his strengths throughout his career and that he has played to them accordingly. This has brought LeBron much success, especially as of late.
LeBron sank the Spurs from the outside in the second half of Game 2, but it all started in the second quarter where LeBron dominated the paint. He took seven shots from inside two feet in the quarter alone. After the Heat had entered the second quarter down seven with only 19 points in the first quarter, the King did nothing but attack the rim. He kept his team in the game with his aggressiveness, and the Heat were down a mere two points after they outscored the Spurs 24-17 in the second quarter.
From this point on, the King flourished. Over the course of the rest of the game, he only failed to make three shots, enjoying a comfortable shooting pocket. LeBron's ability to get to the rim at will caused his opposition to give him space and force him into long jumpers. But LeBron didn't shy away from taking the shots he was given. The Heat downed the Spurs 98-96 as James chose his spots to shine, both inside and out.
What About Game 3?
If LeBron changes anything about his approach, it's only a detriment to the Heat effort tonight. LeBron must again use his freakish athleticism and ability to get to the rim at will early. If he does, this will surely set up his jumper as well as his teammates'. If LeBron falls in love with his shot and looks to impersonate the likes of Ray Allen and Danny Green after his success in Game 2, he won't be doing what has gotten him to where he is now. The biggest task for the King is to know that he is unstoppable - not from the wing, not from three, but right at the hoop where he has made his throne.
If LeBron simply rinses and repeats, I find it hard to say that the Heat won't win this pivotal Game 3.