LeBron James is holding the trophy courtesy of a very different NBA FinalsThe Miami Heat won their second NBA title as a team but it was LeBron James who was the engine that powered them, joining Tim Duncan (2003) and Magic Johnson (1987) as the only players to lead his team in points, rebounds and assists in an NBA Finals win.
A deeper look inside the numbers shows just how much more effective James was compared to his disastrous Finals series a year ago.
Taking it to the paint
James scored 18 points in the paint during Game 5 and averaged 17.6 points per game in the paint during the 2012 Finals. That’s more than double the 8.7 points per game he scored in the paint during the 2011 Finals.
LeBron James in NBA Finals
Last 2 Years
Quite simply, James is a different player when he is more aggressive. He was 8-of-11 (73 percent) and scored 16 of his 26 points from inside 5 feet in Game 5. During the 2012 Finals, James attempted 46 percent of his shots from inside 5 feet, compared to just 36 percent of his field goals in the Finals last season.
Getting it done at the line
A by-product of James taking it to the rim? More trips to the line. Once he got there, James took advantage. He shot 82 percent from the line in the series, averaging over seven free throws per contest.
Compare that to last year against the Mavericks, when his lack of assertiveness kept him off the line. James shot 60 percent on free throws in the 2011 Finals and only averaged two free throws made. He hit as many free throws in Game 2 this year as he did in the entire 2011 Finals.
More than just a scorer
James tied his playoff career-high with 13 assists in Game 5, which created 34 Heat points. That number is the highest in James’ postseason career and second-most in any NBA Finals game over the past 15 years (Rajon Rondo, 2008 Game 2). In Game 4, the Heat scored 29 points off of James’ 12 assists.
LeBron in Crunch Time
Last Two NBA Finals
James’ 25 assists over the past two games were his most over any two game stretch since joining the Heat.
Performing in the clutch
And to exorcise the demons that haunted James the most from last year, James scored 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting in “crunch time” situations (last five minutes of 4th quarter/OT, score within five) in the 2012 NBA Finals. James’ average shot distance in these situations was 15.3 feet and he drew three fouls leading to six free throws.
All of this is a far cry from 2011, where James failed to score or even draw a foul in crunch time. James’ average shot distance in the 2011 NBA Finals was almost 23 feet, with five of his seven shots coming from three-point range.