A simple game recap wouldn’t suffice in a situation like this.
Not after the game LeBron James just had. Not after he just posted up the best shooting game of his life, converting 13 of his 14 field-goal attempts for a 93 percent mark on a night where his Miami Heat were struggling to put away an awful Charlotte Bobcats team. Behind the efforts of James, naturally, the Heat were able to pull off a 99-94 victory that featured 10 points in the fourth quarter from the reigning MVP.
LeBron’s shot chart looked like this:
For the first time in his storied career, LeBron played a game without attempting a shot from outside of 15 feet. Every one of his 14 attempts came from the paint and the only miss came on a fastbreak layup where he claimed to be fouled. Just about every one of his makes either came as a result of a strong drive to the cup or a post-up on a hapless Bobcats defender that could only watch and hope one of LeBron’s back-to-the-basket shots would fall off.
They didn’t. With rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist sitting out, fellow rookie Jeff Taylor was given the assignment of guarding LeBron. Taylor managed 10 points on eight shots against LeBron, but was also frustrated into a personal foul and committed four personals in 28 minutes. Gerald Henderson, naturally a shooting guard, was also given the assignment of defending James and failed as anyone would with the way LeBron was playing.
According to STATS, LeBron’s 13-of-14 was the third best shooting performance with at least 14 attempts in the past 18 years. Shaquille O’Neal’s 15-for-16 in 2005 and Dwight Howard’s 14-for-15 in 2007 were the only other occurrences. What makes James’ accomplishment special, however, is the fact that he is not nearly in the same size bracket as titans like O’Neal and Howard. He is a small forward that occasionally plays power forward putting up numbers you only see from 7-footers.
LeBron is now shooting a staggering .555 percent from the field, miles ahead of his former career-high shooting percentage of the 53 percent he put up last year. James has shot over 50 percent in each of the past four seasons, including shooting at least 51 percent in his three seasons with the Heat. The increased shooting percentage is a direct result of James having to take fewer shots and, of course, having teammates he can rely on to ease the scoring load.
The 18.6 attempts per LeBron is averaging this year is the lowest of his career. The 40 percent he’s shooting from beyond the arc, however, is a career-high.
It’s not all just layups and post-ups for James, though. 51 percent of his shots are coming from outside of nine feet and he’s currently converting 42 percent of his jumpers overall. He’s making 43 percent of his shots from 10-to-15 feet out and 41 percent from 16-to-25 feet away from the rim. Supporting those numbers for his absurd shooting percentage is the fact that he’s converting 78 percent of his shots at the rim.
The last time someone had numbers like that around the rim? A prime Shaquille O’Neal in the 2000-’01 season.
This is getting scary. Because not only is James putting up the shooting numbers of one of the most dominant centers to ever play the game of basketball, he’s also leading the league in PER at 30.5 for the sixth consecutive season and is still finding a way to average seven assists to accompany career-low 2.9 turnovers per.
Oh, and he’s also grabbing a career-high 8.3 rebounds per.
The only down stats are LeBron’s free throw numbers. Despite 49 percent of his shots coming from within nine feet of the rim, LeBron is averaging a mere 6.5 free throws per–the lowest since his rookie season. Strange to see from someone who has shot over 10 free throws per in three different seasons, and even more stranger considering James was taking more jumpers the previous two years and was getting over eight foul shots per, but it may be because the referees are basically treating LeBron as if he was Shaq.
Of course, there will be those who will do everything they can to take away the feats LeBron pulled off. The Bobcats are allowing 103 points per game–28th in the league–and are allowing their opponents to convert 46 percent of their shots–26th worst in the league. The fact that Kidd-Gilchrist, Tyrus Thomas and Hakim Warrick didn’t see any minutes certainly affected the Bobcats lack of presence in the paint, forcing them to use Bismack Biyombo, Byron Mullens, and Brendan Haywood as their paint help.
Kidd-Gilchrist probably would have ended up playing better defense. After all, James did shoot only 9-of-19 from the field in the first meeting that featured the rookie defending LeBron. However, Jeff Taylor isn’t someone you can just dismiss since he was being touted as one of the draft’s top perimeter defenders.
LeBron obviously read the scouting report, thus why he was constantly flashing in the post whenever the smaller Taylor was defending him.
He also had eight rebounds and eight assists to accompany 31 points on 14 shots. As much as Kevin Durant has improved and voters would love to give him his first MVP award, LeBron James is making that idea difficult to conceive in one of the most efficient seasons in NBA history.