James turns up Heat on defense
December, 3, 2013
By Tom McKean | ESPN.com
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesSince LeBron’s criticism of the Heat’s defense, the team is on a 10-game win streak.
After a relatively slow start to the season, in which the Miami Heat started 4-3, LeBron James commented on his team’s poor defense, saying "We're terrible on defense, and we've got to change that".
Through the first seven games of the year, the Heat indeed struggled, allowing 100.9 points per game while opponents were shooting 47.3 percent from the floor.
However, that trend has been put into reverse since.
LeBron’s teammates listened
Since those comments, Miami’s defense has clamped down and the Heat have won 10 straight games. In that span, Heat opponents are averaging just 91.6 points while connecting on 41.6 percent of attempts.
Miami’s defense has been much more efficient, as well.
During that 4-3 start, the Heat were giving up 105.4 points per 100 possessions, but in the span of 10 straight wins, they’ve allowed only 94.8 points per 100.
James keeps improving
James, meanwhile, could be well on his way to a fifth MVP award, which would equal Michael Jordan and Bill Russell's totals.
His efficiency continues to be a prime strength.
He leads everyone in Player Efficiency Rating at 30.3 this season (the league average is 15), and has been at the top in that metric in each of the previous six seasons.
Where James is really improving is close to the basket. In his first season with the Heat in 2010-11, James was 70.3 percent on attempts less than five feet from the hoop, but that percentage has increased in every season since. The season after, it rose to 73.8 percent, followed by 75.0 percent in the 2012-13 season.
He’s gotten even better around the basket this year, shooting 77.3 percent, the highest in the NBA among players with at least 50 attempts from that range.
James is also attacking the rim at a much higher percentage than he used to.
In the 2010-11 season, roughly 35 percent of his overall attempts came within five feet of the hoop. This season, that percentage has jumped to 45. It’s an impressive increase, especially considering his field goal percentage has also risen considerably in that span as well.
What’s more, his overall game this season has seen improvement in several major areas. While it’s still early, he’s posting single-season career highs in field goal percentage (59.8), 3-point field goal percentage (48.1) and free throw percentage (80.6), a scary prospect for anyone looking to stop Miami’s pursuit of a third straight championship.