To say LeBron James struggled in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night doesn't do justice to what took place on the floor over those 48 minutes. The world's indisputable best player struggled with every aspect of his game, and it raises the question:
How did the San Antonio Spurs manage to slow him down?
"We've done a great job helping each other on team defense," San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green said after the game. "But obviously we know what kind of player LeBron is. We know he's not at his best right now. He missed a lot of shots he normally makes. We're sure in Game 4 he's going to come out a lot different."
The strange stat line for James begins with just 15 points on 7-of-21 shooting from the field while going just 1-of-5 from the three-point line. Incredibly, he didn't get to the free throw line all night, the first such instance since December 2009.
What will he need to do to be better in Game 4?
"I got to be better," James remarked after the game. "If I'm better, we're better. I'm putting it on my shoulders."
That's the kind of statement that causes one to think that San Antonio might have awakened a sleeping giant in James. But for a player who shot 57 percent during the regular season, to turn in a 33 percent performance on the game's greatest stage will make some eyes pop.
The Spurs stifled James defensively and bothered him throughout the night, taking him out of his comfort zone by challenging him inside. Every time he got the ball in the post, San Antonio keyed in on him and forced the ball out of his hands. When he did shoot, his looks were especially bad and of the low-percentage variety:
James was 2-of-14 from outside the paint. None of his other looks came easily as he the Spurs were flawless in their rotations and contested nearly everything. Despite all of that, his teammates aren't worried about his ability to bounce back and become himself again.
"He'll make the adjustment and he'll be his normal great self," added Dwyane Wade.
It's not just us stopping LeBron," he said. "He's kind of stopped himself out there and we're getting a little lucky."
(All quotes via NBA live streaming)
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