It’s no secret at this point that Lebron James has lost his jumper. It’s actually been on the decline for a couple years now, and this season, he averaged just 30.9 percent from behind the arc, the worst mark since his rookie season. In the opening round against the Pistons, he shot a ghastly 21 percent from long- range and just 27 percent overall from anywhere outside the paint.
But the “outside the paint” part of that sentence is a crucial caveat since James has returned full-force to his bread-and-butter of getting to the rim at will. In the first round, 44 percent of his shots came in the restricted area where he shot a devastating 76 percent. And that isn’t the only adjustment he’s made to help mitigate his poor shooting. Via Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com:
Once again facing strategies he first saw from the San Antonio Spurs as far back as the 2007 Finals, James is relying on Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to share the scoring load more than he ever has since returning to Cleveland.
That was a challenge the Cavs met in the first round as Irving had the best playoff performance of his young career, averaging 27.5 points and shooting a blistering 47 percent on 3-pointers. In all, 17 of James’ 27 assists in the Pistons series led to 3-pointers.
For all the tired sports cliches about trusting your teammates and getting everyone more involved, that tactic appears to be paying tremendous dividends for a Cavs team that’s been trying to solidify their identity all season long. LeBron will likely see more open looks from Hawks, just like he did against the Pistons, and if he can continue to make them pay by attacking the rim and finding his teammates for better shots, the Cavs will be very difficult to beat.
Then again, if this keeps up and LeBron tries to go it alone, he could shoot the Cavs out of the playoffs.