Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The last time the Miami Heat played a team from Texas in the NBA Finals was just two years ago; but after three games of the 2013 NBA Finals, history may be repeating itself for South Florida’s top team and specifically LeBron James.
In 2011, the Dallas Mavericks did what few thought possible when they mowed down the Big Three in LeBron’s first trip to the NBA Finals as a member of the Miami Heat. Dallas beat Miami by limiting James, who could never get on track during the Finals.
Fellow Big Three members Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were solid, but not spectacular and as James struggled, the Heat’s chances of winning a championship went up in smoke. Dallas essentially dared James to beat them with a confusing zone defense and utilized speed to go right by Miami’s perimeter defense.
In the 2011 NBA Finals, LeBron averaged just 17.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game against the Mavericks. It was James’ worst performance in a playoff series as a member of the Heat and fueled the theme that James couldn’t perform on the biggest stage.
The 2011 Finals also showed the weakness of Miami’s overall roster beyond the Big Three of Wade, James, and Bosh. Dallas’ superior role players ran around Miami’s veteran-laden bench and eventually hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy on the home court of the Heat.
Fast forward to the 2013 NBA Finals and once again LeBron is struggling to get his game going for the Heat. His disastrous Game 3 performance was arguably James’ worst playoff performance ever and as he couldn’t make a shot, the rest of the Heat not named Mike Miller followed.
Through the first three games of the 2013 NBA Finals against the Spurs, LeBron is only averaging 16.7 points per game and is shooting 38.9 percent from the field. James is especially struggling from 23.1 percent from behind the three-point-line.
The area James has helped the Heat the most is on the boards and getting his teammates involved. During the Finals, James is average 7.3 assists and 12.3 rebounds per game. Still, the Heat needed an influx of scoring and more open shots and James couldn’t provide them in Game 3.
Perhaps the most stunning stat through the first three games of the NBA Finals is San Antonio’s Danny Green is outscoring LeBron by a 56-50 margin.
While much of the credit can go to phenomenal defense being played by Kawhi Leonard and the overall defensive scheme drawn up by Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, something has been off with James during the Finals, whether it be fatigue or something else.
Even Green said that while the Spurs have played well, LeBron is also putting up roadblocks to his own game.
“He’s kind of stopped himself out there and we’re getting a little lucky,” Green told CBSSports.com. “You guys have seen him all year at his best, and how he can perform. Obviously he’s not doing that right now. I don’t know what it is.”
Whatever it is, great Spurs defense or something in his head, the Heat will once again only go as far as James can take them. If he has another repeat performance of Game 3, the Heat will not successfully defend their championship.
Still, as James proved during last year’s playoff run, he’s capable of putting it all together in a hurry and if he does, everything should fall into place for Miami to at least have a chance of hanging with the Spurs and possibly stealing a victory in Texas.
The Heat have just two more shots to get the series back to Miami and with the team now 3-23 in its last 26 games in San Antonio, a victory is getting harder and harder to come by.