LeBron James thriving in the clutch

June, 20, 2012
6/20/12
1:03
PM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
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LeBron James
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
With every clutch shot, LeBron James is making it harder and harder to find faults in his game.

It's like we're watching a different person now.

There weren't many things that LeBron James hadn't done on a basketball court. But coming up big in the NBA Finals? That was one of them.

A giant one.

But he's washing away almost all those doubts one game at a time and one clutch shot at a time here against the Oklahoma City Thunder. In Game 4, James came up with a 3-point dagger to break a 94-94 tie with 2:54 left on the clock -- on one leg, no less. And the Heat are one win away from winning it all.

Would he have made that shot in the 2011 Finals? Put it this way, James never made a shot in the 2011 Finals during clutch time. And by clutch time, we define it as the game being within five points in the last five minutes of the game. He didn't hit one.

He's already racked up four big buckets in this series in just about half as much playing time in crunch time than he did in 2011. Not only was James not hitting big shots against Dallas, he wasn't attacking the rim and drawing foul calls like we've been accustomed to seeing from him over his career.

In the 18 minutes of crunch time last Finals, how many free throws did he take? Zero. For James, we'd normally expect him to take, on average, four free throws over a span of 18 minutes.

In just 11 minutes of clutch time here in the Finals, he has already tallied six free throw attempts and made five of them.

Even more interesting? Where he was getting his shots. According to ESPN Stats and Info, James' average shot distance in the Finals last season was 22.9 feet, just inside the 3-point arc. In this Finals? 15.3 feet. You can thank his confidence in the post for that.

James looks like a completely transformed player in this Finals compared to last year. In this case, the numbers don't lie: he has been clutch in the biggest moments.

Can he keep it up in Game 5?

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dwyane Wade
PTS AST STL MIN
22.8 5.5 1.0 32.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsC. Bosh 8.2
AssistsD. Wade 5.5
StealsM. Chalmers 1.8
BlocksC. Bosh 0.8