King James Not Ready for Title Yet
Posted Jun 16 2007 11:13PM
CLEVELAND, June 16 (AP) -- King James found the Spurs' defense to be a royal pain.
LeBron James stumbled, not soared, through his first NBA finals, which ended in a sweep with Cleveland's 83-82 loss to San Antonio on Thursday night.
For perhaps the first time in his basketball career, James didn't live up to his considerable hype. He came into the finals being compared to Michael Jordan, but didn't even play like the LeBron James of a week earlier.
Only 22, James will likely win a ring someday. But he knows it won't happen if he plays the way he did in the last four games.
"Me, an as individual, I have to be much better on and off the court,'' James said, "and that will carry our team to higher levels. I think it starts with me first and then it will trickle down to everybody else.''
James had 24 points and 10 assists, but shot just 10-of-30 from the field and had some costly miscues in the fourth quarter. He had six turnovers, finishing the series with 23.
Perhaps James was tired Thursday after getting less sleep than usual. He was at the hospital when his girlfriend, Savannah Brinson, gave birth to the couple's second son, Bryce Maximus James, early Thursday morning.
So June 14 will always be a memorable day for James. The rest of these finals were one to forget.
James shot 36 percent in the series, often struggling to find open shots against the tough defense of Bruce Bowen.
"I think their defensive intensity and some of the things that they did definitely kept me off guard,'' James said. "The turnovers were definitely uncharacteristic of what happened. It was a lot of unforced things, me losing the ball or me making bad passes. All things I can control and I wasn't able to do that.''
Still, James seemed on the verge of taking over Game 4, making consecutive baskets to give the Cavs a 61-60 lead midway through the final quarter - their first lead in any second half in the series. But then quickly, potential victory slipped right through his hands.
He turned it over with Cleveland down six with under 2 1/2 minutes remaining, and allowed a rebound to glance off his hands out of bounds after his 3-pointer had cut it to five with under 2 minutes to go.
He was even unlucky - a San Antonio pass with 2 seconds remaining on the shot clock hit off his foot, giving the Spurs an additional 12 seconds. The Spurs ended up getting Fabricio Oberto's three-point play, pushing their lead to six.
James tried to lead a late rally, hitting a 3-pointer that made it a two-point game in the final seconds. But the Cavs took too long to foul, and he never had another chance to win or tie it.
"It definitely could have been better,'' James said of his play in the finals. "It could have been better in order for us to win. If I don't play well, our team is not going to have a good chance to win. I've got a lot of things to work on to get better for next year.''
James looked ready to do something special in the finals after his dominant showing in the last four games of the Eastern Conference finals. His 48-point performance in Game 5, when he scored 29 of Cleveland's final 30 points in a double-overtime victory over Detroit, was one of the most spectacular individual performances in NBA history.
But he never had chance to make that kind of mark on the finals. His poor first-half performances in Games 1 and 2 contributed to Cleveland's sluggish starts, and the Cavs were never really in either game in the second half.
Game 3 was close, but James was unable to take over and turn around the series the way his buddy, Dwyane Wade, did last year for Miami. He had consecutive shots rattle out with the Cavs trailing by four, and later didn't get a whistle when he appeared to draw contact while trying to get off a potential game-tying 3-pointer.
"He had some great looks and they just didn't go in,'' Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "And not just his jump shots, but we're talking about he had a few layups, I think, almost every game that normally go in but for some reason they didn't.''
With their superstar struggling, the Cavaliers never got going. They had the worst offensive showing ever in the finals, scoring just 322 points. That wasn't even close to the previous record, Baltimore's 376 points in the 1971 finals against Milwaukee.
But James, in the playoffs for only the second time and just completing his fourth season, at least got something out of the finals, even if it wasn't jewelry.
"He will get better and he will one day get his ring,'' forward Drew Gooden said.
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