NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — LeBron James was leaning against a wall outside the Miami Heat locker room on Tuesday morning, talking about how he believes his personal statistics do not matter.
This one did.
And eight points — eight points! — was nowhere near enough for the Heat in Game 4 of the NBA finals. Instead of celebrating the biggest win of his NBA career, King James was left to ponder his worst postseason scoring performance.
For the first time in 90 career playoff games — and his past 434 overall — James did not reach double digits in scoring. His offense was, by his lofty standards, offensive: a mere eight points on 3-for-11 shooting, and the Miami Heat lost 86-83 to the Dallas Mavericks as the NBA finals became knotted at two games.
“The fact that it happened in a loss is the anger part about it,” James said. “That’s all that matters to me. If I’d have had eight points and we won the game … I don’t really care about that. The fact that I could have done more offensively to help our team, that’s the anger part about it for myself. But I’ll come back in Game 5 and do things that need to be done to help our team win.”
Game 5 is at Dallas on Thursday.
And here’s a certainty: Between now and then, every aspect of James’ offensive shortcomings in Game 4 will be scrutinized in about every way possible.
“He struggled,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “Point blank, period. He struggled out there and we’ve all done that at times in our careers, and it happens. But he’s a resilient guy. For this team, I think we’re back in our comfort zone. We’re desperate again. We’re going to have to do a better job and the pressure’s on again. So this is when we’re at our best. And for LeBron, he just has to bounce back, be himself, play his game.”
When James scores 15 or less in his playoff career, his teams are 0-7, including 0-3 this season with Miami.
Although James finished with nine rebounds and seven assists, his night will be considered a clunker — a big one. The lob he threw to Dwyane Wade for an alley-oop in the third quarter and the 75-foot chest pass that he perfectly placed over Dirk Nowitzki and past Jason Kidd on its way to Wade in the final minute were incredible passes — but not incredible enough to make anyone forget that for whatever reason, James could not score in Game 4.
“Obviously, we’d like to get him involved,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He’s a very important piece to what we do. So we’ll work to help make it easier for him in the next game.”
The last time James scored under 10 points was Jan. 5, 2007.
That night in Milwaukee — also an eight-point effort — has long been forgotten.
This one, on the NBA’s biggest stage, certainly will not be forgotten anytime soon. And he was scoreless in the fourth quarter, meaning he’s got a total of nine points in the final periods in these four games with Dallas.
“Let’s continue to play desperate,” James told his teammates before the game. “That’s the only way we know how to play basketball. That’s the best way we know how to play. When we play desperate, we feel like our back is against the wall.”
It’s a safe bet he will feel even more desperate on Thursday night.
“We give them credit where credit is due,” said Wade, tipping his cap to Dallas. “But we also learn from it and we will come back and try to get Game 5.”
James tried one shot in the fourth quarter, and was 2 for 7 after halftime — one of those an open dunk in transition, the other a jumper late in the third quarter when Miami had a chance to pull away. His only attempt down the stretch was a step-back jumper from 17 feet that missed with 2:25 remaining.
“I’ve got to do a better job of being more assertive offensively, not staying out of rhythm the whole game,” James said.
It wasn’t just James, struggling, either. Miami had nine points in the final 10 minutes, wasting a lead again for the second time in the series. Udonis Haslem’s jumper gave Miami a 74-65 lead, but it quickly disappeared from there for the Eastern Conference champions.
“Our team defense really stepped up in the fourth, which we had to do because we were playing from behind,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said.
It’s the ninth time in his career James was held to single figures, though most of those came when he was a rookie. Of his 90 playoff games, he had scored at least 20 in 78 of them. And for his career, it was just the ninth time in 717 games where he didn’t reach double digits.
“We’ll be better in Game 5,” Spoelstra said.
James insisted he would be as well, knowing how big it will be in deciding this championship.
“I’m confident in my ability,” James said. “It’s just about going out there and knocking them down. When you have the opportunity, you have to knock them down. Your teammates give you the confidence. They give me the confidence all year, all postseason. So I have to go out there and make them count.”
Bosh said he has no doubt the two-time MVP will bounce back.
“We need him,” Bosh said. “So everything else will be fine after that. He just has to go and play.”
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