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John Schuhmann

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LeBron James could do no wrong in forcing a Game 7, and he didn't need much help in the process.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Outside shot returns for LeBron at just the right time


Posted Jun 8 2012 9:54AM

BOSTON -- Facing elimination ... on the road ... in one of the toughest buildings to play in ... against one of the best defensive teams in recent memory ... and playing every minute until the opponent threw in the towel, LeBron James had a performance for the ages Thursday. His 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists against the Boston Celtics was a stat line that had been achieved only one other time in playoff history.

With James leading the way, Game 6 went to the Miami Heat 98-79. As a result, the Eastern Conference finals are going back to Miami for Game 7 on Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

James hits shots from nearly everywhere on the floor, producing quite an amazing shot chart. He had more field goals (19) than his teammates (18), while taking about half as many shots (26 to 50).

He didn't need much help with those 19 field goals either. Only three of the 19 were assisted, two by Dwyane Wade and one by Shane Battier. James has, by far, the most unassisted field goals in the postseason.

Most unassisted field goals, 2012 Playoffs
Player FGM FGMUAST %UAST
LeBron James 191 128 67.0%
Rajon Rondo 131 108 82.4%
Russell Westbrook 125 100 80.0%
Dwyane Wade 149 94 63.1%
Kobe Bryant 132 75 56.8%
Tony Parker 102 75 73.5%

James apparently found the jump shot that went missing after Game 3. After shooting 6-for-27 from outside the restricted area in Games 4 and 5, James was 15-for-22 from outside the restricted area on Thursday.

Those 15 field goals from outside the restricted area were the most of James' career (798 regular season and playoff games). His previous high was 14, set in Milwaukee on Feb. 20, 2009, when he scored 55 points (one short of his career high) for the Cavs.

Too many jumpers?

If there's one troubling issue for the Heat in regard to their Game 6 victory, it's that they relied heavily on jump shots. They attempted only 14 shots from the restricted area, their fewest since Game 1 of the first round. The Celtics attempted more than twice as many (29).

The Heat also attempted a postseason-high 32 shots from mid-range, the most inefficient area of the floor. After shooting 8-for-38 from mid-range in the last two games, the Heat were 14-for-32 on Thursday.

3-point discrepancy

The Celtics actually outscored the Heat 62-60 on 2-point shots in Game 6. Neither team got to the free-throw line much, but the Heat had a three-point advantage there. The big difference in Game 6 was beyond the arc, where the Heat shot 7-for-16 while the Celtics shot 1-for-14.

For the series, both teams have shot poorly (30.2 percent combined) from 3-point range. And the only player in the series shooting better than 37 percent from 3-point range is Keyon Dooling, who is 6-for-11.

Empty Truth

He hit the big 3-pointer in Game 5, but no player has missed more 3s in the series than Paul Pierce, who is 8-for-32 from beyond the arc. Overall, Pierce is shooting just 33.6 percent from the field, the worst he's shot in any playoff series in his career (22 series total).

Paul Pierce's worst shooting playoff series
Season Round Opponent FGM FGA FG%
2011-12 Conf. finals Miami 38 113 33.6%
2003-04 First round Indiana 26 76 34.2%
2009-10 Conf. semis Cleveland 29 84 34.5%
2001-02 Conf. finals New Jersey 40 110 36.4%
2002-03 First round Indiana 44 113 38.9%

Inside the arc, Pierce has been particularly bad from mid-range, where he's 10-for-41 (24.4 percent). He shot 36.4 percent from mid-range in the regular season and 35 percent in the first two rounds.

Pierce's shooting has obviously hurt the Celtics' offense. And they've actually been more efficient with him on the bench.

Celtics efficiency with Pierce on/off the floor
Pierce on/off court MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Pierce on 237 90.6 97.1 103.9 -6.9 -30
Pierce off 61 85.3 114.3 103.3 +11.0 +9
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Of course, Pierce isn't alone on the negative side of the plus-minus ledger. The only Boston rotation player with a positive plus-minus in the series is Kevin Garnett, who is a plus-7.

A lineup that works

Chris Bosh almost doubled his Game 5 playing time on Thursday, logging 28 minutes. He scored fewer points and grabbed fewer rebounds than he did in Game 5, but the more he plays, the more he's ready to take on a bigger role.

But should the Heat start Bosh in Game 7, changing their lineup for the third time in the series? Maybe not.

Miami's current starting lineup -- Mario Chalmers, Wade, James, Battier and Udonis Haslem -- has been excellent in this series, outscoring the Celtics 154-125 in 73 minutes. And it has outscored Boston in each of the last five games.

Miami lineup: Chalmers, Wade, James, Battier, Haslem
Game MIN PTS OppPTS +/-
Game 1 3 4 5 -1
Game 2 16 44 31 +13
Game 3 7 17 15 +2
Game 4 18 28 18 +10
Game 5 20 42 40 +2
Game 6 11 19 16 +3
Totals 73 154 125 +29

In Game 5, Erik Spoelstra didn't use Bosh's return to go back to playing two big men at the same time, using Bosh exclusively at the center in a small lineup. But on Thursday, Bosh played 10 minutes with Haslem, and the Heat outscored the Celtics 22-14 in those minutes, not allowing any offensive rebounds.

All numbers courtesy of NBA.com/stats.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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