Given the drubbings taken by the Miami Heat in Games Three and Four of the NBA Finals, Lebron James must take over the action and rely less on his supporting cast in order to win the series. James remains the best basketball player on the planet and he is virtually unstoppable once he finds his groove. Although renowned for his on-court decision-making and ability to make other players better, the King will need to become the primary ball handler from the opening tip on Sunday for the team to beat the San Antonio Spurs in Game Five. Likewise, James should also spend as much time as possible checking Tony Parker in order to disrupt the Spurs’ offensive flow.
Until the Spurs beat the Heat in the last two games, the Miami team enjoyed an aura of playoff invincibility playing at American Airlines Arena. They had not lost at home in the playoffs. Similar to Tiger Woods in his prime, opponents knew that the Heat would not lose a lead playing at home. Unfortunately for the Heat, the Spurs never let them lead. The well-oiled Spurs offensive machine was historically good in Games Three and Four and the Heat cover never sniff a lead after the first couple minutes of each game.
The struggles of Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole are on display to a worldwide audience. Neither has been a positive factor in the Finals. Dwayne Wade has not played up to his usual high standards and Chris Bosh has not played to his all-star capabilities. At this point, the best option for the Miami Heat to win the NBA Finals is to surround Lebron James with three-point shooters and let him take over in the remaining must win games. With James handling the ball most of the time, the Heat should take a stab at starting Shane Battier. He can make three-point shots and is generally a disruptive presence on defense. Rashard Lewis should continue to get significant playing time as well. He was an effective stretch four in his previous Finals stint with the Orlando Magic. With James driving into the paint, Ray Allen may get some good looks as well.
Although Kawhi Leonard has defended James in capable fashion in the Finals, he alone cannot stop the King. Realistically, the only things that can keep Lebron James out of the paint are James himself or Coach Eric Spoelstra. Until the situation became dire, James and Spoelstra probably wanted to save his energy in order to keep him strong throughout the Finals. With “win or go home” being applicable for the remainder of the Finals, the Miami Heat cannot concern themselves with keeping the King fresh. With the way the rest of the team is playing, the only hope is to rely on James to create offense.
If games Three and Four of the NBA Finals had been close, the Heat could work on their execution and tighten up a few loose ends. With the two home drubbings at the hands of the Spurs, all the ends are loose now. In order to survive and win the next three games, the Miami Heat must turn loose Lebron James and let him take over the NBA Finals. If he can establish some momentum, then maybe the rest of the team can follow.
Commentary by William Costolo