No one likes facing a defense headed up by basketball general Larry Brown. Especially LeBron James.
Since Brown took over the reins in the Queen City in 2008-09, LeBron has struggled against his defense more than most. Over seven games against the Bobcats over that time, he’s averaged 22.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 6.4 assists. Most players would feel pretty good about a stat line like that, but for LeBron, that’s decisively subpar.
He’ll get a chance to reverse that trend tonight as the Heat host the 4-7 Bobcats at AmericanAirlines Arena. But it’s in the nature of any Larry Brown team to lay down for him.
The Bobcats pride themselves on physical play and discouraging easy shots at the bucket. Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra knows the Bobcats defense will try to set the tone early.
“They’re very well-coached,” Spoelstra said before the game. “They are a tough, physical, tough-minded basketball team. Larry Brown always gets his teams to play like that. Sometimes the games really become at times overly physical, sometimes ugly, sometimes it isn’t a clean game. We know what we’re facing tonight. Our mindset is to come in with a physical mentality.”
LeBron normally feasts on slicing through defenses and getting to the free throw line with no difficulty. But the Bobcats pack the paint and force him to stay on the perimeter where he’s least effective. Over the past three seasons, LeBron has only gotten 6.4 free throws per game against the Bobcats, far below his 9.0 career rate. The Bobcats are physical but not to the point of violation.
But the game changes now that he has Dwyane Wade flanking him on the wing. Brown has to find a way to limit his looks at the rim without the luxury of a double team.
“When you have to defend against him you just have to hope he doesn’t make all of his jump shots,” Brown said. “And you can keep him out of transition. He is too great of a player for any one player to stop him. I’ve seen him play games where he hasn’t even looked at the basket and just tried to get other people involved. He always has a positive impact on the game.”
With Wade under the weather, the Heat will lean on LeBron more than they have all season. As always, Brown won’t make it easy for him.