LeBron James has no intention of letting the New Jersey Nets turn him into an outside shooter and passer again.
While many may point to another triple-double by Jason Kidd or the Nets' ability to rebound and score in transition as the keys to Game 3 on Saturday, the real difference was New Jersey's success in keeping the 22-year-old Cavs superstar on the outside with myriad defenses.
Oddsmakers have made New Jersey -3.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 184 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 61% of bets for this game have been placed on New Jersey -3.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).
James was double- and triple-teamed. His route along the baseline was closed off. And when he tried to go down the lane, a Nets big man stepped up and blocked his path. The result was a 96-85 victory that cut Cleveland's lead in the series to 2-1.
``There were times where I could have attacked a little bit more,'' James said Sunday before the Cavaliers practiced at John Jay College in New York. ``That's why I watch a lot of film.''
The loss ended the Cavaliers' franchise-record, six-game postseason winning streak and a 10-game run dating to the final weeks of the regular season. It also puts the pressure on James and the Cavaliers for the first time in the playoffs, with New Jersey looking to tie the series in Game 4 on Monday night at Continental Airlines Arena.
``It's not like the end of the world,'' said James, who only went to the basket five times on 16 shots. ``It's not like the NCAA tournament where you lose one game and you're out. I got Game 4 to better myself and I'll be better, I'll be better tomorrow.''
A look at the Game 3 final box may suggest that James played well with 18 points and 12 assists, accounting for 42 points.
What the box doesn't show is that James' failure to get into the paint meant that Mikki Moore and Jason Collins didn't have to provide help defense for the Nets, and left them in better position to box out on defense.
After getting 39 offensive rebounds in the first two games of the series in Cleveland, the Cavs were limited to five in Game 3.
``It's all about making him feel uncomfortable,'' Nets forward Bostjan Nachbar said of James, who was 5-of-16 from the field. ``We're trying to make him create more and limit his ability to get to the rim.''
Cavaliers coach Mike Brown scoffed at the idea that the Nets suddenly found a way to handle James, who averaged 28.5 points in the first two games. He said teams have always thrown gimmick defenses at James.
Brown's only complaint was that James seemed to settle for a couple of jumpers, with the two biggest coming with the Cavaliers trailing 77-73 with about 9 minutes to play.
``I think he's like the third-leading scorer in the playoffs, or something like that ... for me, it's not the end of the world,'' Brown said. ``I want him to attack if it's there. If he can score any time he has the ball, he's got the green light to do it. But if he feels that his teammate is open and he makes that pass, then I got to live with that, too.''
The bottom line is that James has to be more aggressive. If he can't get to the rim, he probably will have to post his man up closer to the basket, since he has the size and strength to do that.
James also can't settle for 16 shots. That's four fewer than Cavs point guard Larry Hughes took.
``I think he needs to mix it up,'' Brown said. ``I do think he needs to sit down deep sometimes, which may not allow them to come double him as quickly or as effectively. He might be able to go quick and score. I want him to step out on the floor, too, so they don't see the same thing every time.''
The Nets expect James to adjust.
``He can get to the basket,'' said Kidd, who had 23 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds in posting his 11th playoff career triple-double, second most in NBA history. ``We just try to make it as tough as possible.''
The one problem that could ruin the Nets would be if James and Hughes hit their outside shots. Then New Jersey would have to adjust.
``We're looking to take a 3-1 lead and go back home,'' James said. ``We're still up two games to one, they're chasing us. We're just going to go out there and play well and be ready to play.''
Cavaliers reserve forward Donyell Marshall had a walking boot on his left foot on Sunday and his status for Game 4 is uncertain. He said he landed on someone's foot going for a rebound in the second half.
By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us
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