For LeBron, Davis and Lakers, It’s Time to Put Up or Shut Up


LeBron James and Anthony Davis collectively scored 40 points on an efficient 15-25 shooting night in Game 3. James added 10 boards and eight assists. Davis had five boards, three assists and two steals. Not bad, right?

It’s smooth sailing until you get to the far right of the box score and see the two totaled 13 of the Lakers’ 19 turnovers in the game. Davis had four in the first quarter alone, two of which came on offensive fouls and limited his time on the floor.

The 6-foot-10 forward talked about his struggles after the game.

“You know, the turnovers, I had four. Offensive fouls…,” Davis said. “It had an impact. Picked up two early, come in and get the third. So it takes away the aggressiveness on both ends of the floor that I’m used to playing with.”

Davis actually had five turnovers while his superstar teammate James accounted for eight. This after coughing up the ball just twice in the first two games combined.

“Our turnovers really killed us. We understand that we can’t turn the ball over versus this team,” James said Monday. “We also had some breakdowns defensively throughout the course of the game that we’re not accustomed to having. Those will be cleaned up in Game 4.”

Ball security and defense will be crucial to the Lakers’ chances of coming out with a win Tuesday. But it’s going to take more on the offensive end, too.

Offensive Execution

Through three Finals games, LA has attempted 127 shots from beyond the arc. That accounts for 48% of their 260 total shots. This isn’t the Lakers basketball we’ve been accustomed to seeing throughout the season and in the bubble. We have to credit Miami’s defense.

Erik Spoelstra and co. have done a superb job forcing the Lakers to take jump shots while limiting their looks at the rim. They’re doing it without their starting center Bam Adebayo, too, who’s been upgraded to “questionable” for Game 4.

Adebayo would be a big help to Jimmy Butler. Although, the two-way stud held James to five points in the fourth quarter and helped force him into four turnovers in the final frame, rarely switching off of him. The Lakers need to do a better job of creating switches for LeBron like Miami did for Butler. Hence why the South Beach star scored 40 points and hit clutch shots down the stretch like this:

Additionally, James and Davis have to be more aggressive going to the rim and getting to the line. They are LA’s best finishers, and The Brow, who took just nine shots Sunday night, only took three shots in the key. The Lakers will need more than 34 points in the paint, too — their Game 3 output — to emerge victorious.

“Obviously, no one wants to ever lose,” James said Monday. “You hate that feeling, especially when you know you didn’t play your best, and I definitely wasn’t at my best last night from an individual standpoint. So I take that responsibility and I take that with a lot of passion and understanding of how I can be much better in the following game.”

It would be nice to see LeBron and AD run some PNR when Miami plays man-to-man defense. We haven’t seen much of that, if at all, so far in the Finals. But when Miami’s in zone, the Lakers need to beat it like they did in Game 2, by throwing the ball into the free-throw line area whether it’s Davis, James or Rajon Rondo in the middle. Attacking the zone off the dribble has done wonders for James and Rondo as well.

Talk on defense

I’ve been emphasizing the Lakers’ miscommunication on defense after each game in the Finals now. They’re late to rotate on shooters. They’re not talking on picks, which allows guys to get open shots. For instance, when Heat forward Kelly Olynyk slipped a screen with 6:29 left in the fourth quarter over Game 3 (:53 mark in below video). Olynyk destroyed them from all over the court in the last two games.

The key to stopping such breakdowns is just talking. Knowing if you’re going to switch screens, go over or under them, hedge and recover. It’s all just a matter of the guys using their voices.

“You can’t really tell if someone is communicating on film, but you can tell, if you kind of get what I mean. You can tell we wasn’t,” Davis said. “We were off in our coverages. They were setting screens and slipping to the rim without no one guarding them. We were over-helping. We were having blown coverages. There was a lot of space on the floor for guys to drive to the basket with no resistance, no help. Guys were hung up on their man. You could tell that we weren’t ourselves defensively.

“We’ve got to protect each other. We have to help each other, and that wasn’t the case last night (Sunday), and a big reason why we lost.”

Protecting the paint and keeping Miami off the line will also be vital for LA Tuesday night. The Heat shot 21 of 23 from the charity stripe and scored 52 of their 115 points in the key. This could actually be easier if Adebayo does play because he tends to hover around the rim meaning Dwight Howard and Davis will be able to help on drives. When Olynyk and Meyers Leonard are spreading the floor, they draw the Lakers bigs with them.

Final Thoughts

I’m expecting LeBron and AD to show everyone why they’re the best duo in the game. They’ve done it throughout the playoffs and now, on the biggest stage, it’s necessary more than ever. It seems like they have a sense of urgency, which they should to avoid a 2-2 tie.

Game 4 could end up being one of the best Finals performances from a pair of teammates we’ve ever seen. Perhaps similar to what LeBron and Kyrie Irving did in Game 5 of the 2016 Finals against the Warriors. They each dropped 41 points and became the first teammates to drop 40-plus in a Finals game.

That’s the type of outburst I’m expecting from two of the best players in the NBA. That is the type of performance that turns great players into legends. LeBron, AD — it’s time to be legendary. Put up, or shut up.

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About Sandeep Chandok

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