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LeBron James is averaging 16.7 PPG on 39 percent shooting against the Spurs in the NBA Finals.
After shooting 62.7 percent against the Milwaukee Bucks, James’ highest shooting percentage in any career playoff series, he’s shooting 38.9 percent in the NBA Finals, his lowest shooting percentage in any postseason series with the Heat.
If it holds, James’ field goal percentage would be the third lowest of all time in the NBA Finals by a player who won the regular-season MVP, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
How is this happening?
Getting farther from the basket
LeBron James Avg. Shot Distance
2013 Playoffs by Round
One factor is shot distance, as James has moved farther away from the basket throughout the playoffs.
His average shot distance has increased in each series, beginning with an average distance of 8.5 feet in the first round versus the Bucks to 13.3 feet in the Finals versus the San Antonio Spurs.
James continues to struggle with his midrange jump shooting (outside the paint and inside the 3-point line) in his NBA Finals career. He’s shooting 23 percent from that area, including going just 4-for-17 (23.5 percent) in this season’s Finals.
The Spurs have had success keeping him out of the paint. James has attempted 17 midrange shots through three games after attempting 22 such shots in the 2012 NBA Finals.
In Game 3, James failed to attempt a free throw for the first time in his Heat playoff career. In fact, he has shot just six free throws in three games this series.
To compare, James averaged 7.7 free throw attempts per game in the Eastern Conference finals versus the Pacers. Even that was down from the 8.5 per game he averaged in the first two rounds this postseason and the 10.3 he averaged in his playoff career entering the 2013 postseason.
The significant reduction in looks from the charity stripe could explain why James’ scoring average has dropped to 16.7 PPG in the Finals. That would be the lowest of any individual playoff round in his career if it holds up.