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John Schuhmann

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LeBron James celebrated on the sidelines, but he didn't spend much time there during The Finals.
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

LeBron proves to be too valuable to sit during playoffs


Posted Jun 22 2012 2:49PM

MIAMI -- LeBron James led the Miami Heat to their second NBA championship and lifted a huge burden off his shoulders by winning his first. He more than earned his Finals MVP award, averaging 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists over five games against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He's the best basketball player in the world and he played like it on the biggest stage.

And he didn't even shoot well. In fact, James shot about as bad from the perimeter as he's ever shot in his career.

Overall, James shot 47.2 percent in the 2012 Finals, not too far off his regular season mark of 53.1 percent. But his raw percentage was decent because his attack was so consistent, with 70 of his 108 shots (65 percent) coming from inside the paint.

His jumper was consistent too. Consistently off.

James shot just 7-for-38 (18 percent) from outside the paint in The Finals, capped by an 0-for-4 performance in Game 5, just the third time all season he failed to score from outside the paint. James Harden, as awful as he played, had more baskets (nine) from outside the paint in the series than James did. Kevin Durant had more than four times as many (29).

James' poor shooting from the outside went back to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against Boston, when he was 1-for-10 from the outside. Incredibly, the eight field goals from outside the paint over the last six games is the fewest he's made in any six-game stretch in his career. And only one time in his career has he shot worse than 17 percent over a six-game stretch.

LeBron's lowest field-goal percentage from outside the paint over six games (single season)
Dates FGM FGA FG%
March 17-27, 2007 11 69 15.9%
June 9-21, 2012 8 48 16.7%
Nov. 22 - Dec. 3, 2003 10 54 18.5%
May 6-16, 2008 15 81 18.5%
Oct. 28 - Nov. 7, 2008 12 57 21.1%

This was the second-worst stretch of his career. And it won him a championship.

It won him a championship because the jumpers didn't matter. The points in the paint did. James posted up as much as he ever has in his career, and he attacked the basket both in transition and in the Heat's half-court offense.

James had 16 or more points in the paint in each of the last seven games. That is the longest streak of 16-plus of his career, eclipsing his previous high of five straight (in Nov. 2007).

James made big jumpers in Game 2 (a bank shot that put the Heat up five with 1:26 left) and Game 4 (the pull-up 3-pointer that broke a tie with 2:51 left). But the story of The Finals was his work in the paint.

The definition of valuable

James played 220 of a possible 240 minutes in The Finals and 983 of a possible 1,114 minutes (88 percent) in the postseason. The Heat needed all of those minutes, because they weren't a very good team, either offensively or defensively, when he took a rest.

Heat efficiency, James on/off floor, 2012 Playoffs
James on/off floor MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
James on floor 983 91.0 108.5 97.5 +11.1 +199
James off floor 131 87.2 94.0 106.2 -12.1 -36
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

When Dwyane Wade was on the floor without James, the Heat scored a paltry 93 points per 100 possessions and were outscored by 34 points in 108 minutes. Wade shot just 26-for-71 (37 percent) in the playoffs with James on the bench and 171-for-355 (48 percent) with James on the floor.

James' presence was even more important to Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers, who combined to shoot a miserable 3-for-32 (9 percent) from 3-point range in the playoffs with James on the bench. They were 72-for-170 (42 percent) with him on the floor.

Last postseason, James was on the floor for 91 percent of his team's minutes, but he was just a plus-29 over 21 games. The Heat were better when he was off the floor (though that was a pretty small sample size of just 96 minutes).

James led the 2012 playoffs in total minutes (983), points (697), rebounds (224), plus-minus (plus-199), and free throws, both made (173) and attempted (234). He finished second to Rajon Rondo in assists and steals.

Timely 3s

James did need some help. With the Thunder double-teaming him in the post, he was able to create opportunities for his teammates. But those teammates still needed to knock down their shots. And in The Finals, the Heat's 3-point shooting was at its best, especially from the wings and the top of the key.

Heat 3-point shooting, 2011-12
Season/round C3PM C3PA C3P% A3PM A3PA A3P% T3PM T3PA T3P%
Regular season 127 350 36.3% 243 680 35.7% 370 1,030 35.9%
First round vs. NYK 16 40 40.0% 24 69 34.8% 40 109 36.7%
Conf. semis vs. IND 6 26 23.1% 20 64 31.3% 26 90 28.9%
Conf. finals vs. BOS 16 58 27.6% 33 97 34.0% 49 155 31.6%
Finals vs. OKC 9 23 39.1% 33 75 44.0% 42 98 42.9%
C = From the corners
A = From above the break

The Heat were among the best teams in the league in shooting 3s from above the break in the regular season. But in the previous two rounds, they sure didn't look like it. In The Finals, they seemingly made up for all those missed shots.

James assisted on 17 of the 39 3-pointers his teammates hit in The Finals, including 13 of the 23 they hit in Games 4 and 5. Overall, the Heat shot 39 percent from 3-point range in their 16 postseason wins and 25 percent in their seven losses.

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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