has yet to score more than 18 points in the Finals against the Spurs
. (Sun Sentinel/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO -- Two years ago, after an uneven performance in a Game 3 win against the Mavericks in the 2011 Finals, LeBron James chafed at a question about his less-than-stellar offensive stat line, suggesting reporters take a second look at his work on the defensive end.
"I think you're concentrating on one side of the floor," he said, after finishing with 17 points, nine assists and three rebounds. "All you're looking at is the stat sheet. I'm a two-way player. ... You should watch the film again and see what I did defensively and ask me a better question tomorrow."
After another rough Finals Game 3 performance, this time in a loss to the Spurs, James dropped the sarcasm, ditched the deflections and simply took full responsibility for his play.
"Everything was a disaster," he said, after the Spurs dealt the Heat a 113-77 defeat, the worst playoff loss in Miami's franchise history. "I just have to play better. I can't have a performance like tonight and expect to win. I've got to shoot the ball better, make better decisions and I will get into the film and see ways that I can do that. I'm not putting the blame on anybody, I'm owning everything that I did tonight.
James finished with 15 points (on 7-for-21 shooting), 11 rebounds and five assists. He didn't attempt a free throw in a playoff game for just the second time in his career.
"I have to do better," he repeated, speaking from the Heat's locker room rather than from his usual spot at the postgame press conference podium. "If I'm better, we're better and I have to be better. I'm putting everything on my chest and on my shoulders and I have to be better."
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra expressed confidence in James, who hasn't scored more than 18 points in three games against the Spurs in the Finals. San Antonio regularly sagged off James, forcing him to be a shoot-first player as opposed to the pass-first playmaker role he seems to have preferred so far during the series.
"He'll figure it out," Spoelstra said of James. "He always figures it out. I'm not concerned about that. We'll work to make sure that he's getting to places he can be comfortable and confident. ... They're packing the paint, playing off him. So we'll make those adjustments in the next couple of days."
James went just 2-for-14 outside the paint and hit only 1 of his 5 three-point attempts. This during a season in which he hit a career-high 40.6 percent of his shots from behind the arc.
"LeBron missed some shots that LeBron makes," Dwyane Wade said. "He makes shots from all over the floor. ... I'm not worried about him at all. He'll make the adjustment. He'll be his normal self."
Spurs guard Danny Green said James "stopped himself" at times during Game 3.
"We know he's not at his best right now," Green said, after scoring a game-high 27 points, including seven three-pointers. "He missed a lot of shots that he normally makes. We're sure Game 4 he's going to come out a lot different. ... LeBron, [it's] not just us stopping him. He's kind of stopping himself out there and we're getting a little lucky."
Green's coach, Gregg Popovich, took a completely cautious postgame approach.
"We haven't stopped anybody," he said, when asked about his team success against James during the Finals. "We're trying to play good team defense on everybody."
San Antonio now leads the series 2-1. Game 4 is set for Thursday at the AT&T Center.