Thunder should let LeBron James go for broke

Put Kevin Durant or whomever you like on James. They'll do a good job, he'll score 28 or 30 points, and that's just how it's going to go. Then, concentrate the defensive effort on LeBron's teammates. Those are the guys, after all, who have made the difference against the Thunder.
by Jenni Carlson Published: February 13, 2013
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LeBron James is playing the best basketball of his career.

He's on a phenomenal and historic streak. On Tuesday night, he became the first player in NBA history to score 30 or more points and hit at least 60 percent of his shots in six consecutive games. Adrian Dantley and Moses Malone had achieved the amazing statistical combination in five consecutive games, but neither of the Basketball Hall of Famers reached six games.

All of that is a long explanation for an obvious truth.

LeBron is playing out of his mind.

And he's coming to Oklahoma City.

LeBron brings his streak to The Peake on Thursday night when the Heat plays the Thunder. It's a highly anticipated game, an NBA Finals rematch and a possible NBA Finals preview, and it brings to the forefront a big problem for the Thunder.

What to do about LeBron?

My advice: let LeBron get his.

Is it crazy?

Not really.

For starters, the Thunder doesn't have anyone well-suited to guard LeBron one-on-one. It lacks a big, physical but agile swingman who can hang with him. Truth is, there's not any defender out there who can shut down LeBron, but there are some who do better than others.

The Thunder doesn't have one of those guys.

The evidence bears that out. In the past eight meetings between these teams, dating back to the start of last season, James is averaging 27.9 points a game against the Thunder. Even with all the different schemes and defensive switches that the Thunder has thrown at him, LeBron is almost sure to score almost 30 points against the boys in blue.

So, here's what the Thunder should do.

Put Kevin Durant or whomever you like on James. They'll do a good job, he'll score 28 or 30 points, and that's just how it's going to go.

Then, concentrate the defensive effort on LeBron's teammates.

Those are the guys, after all, who have made the difference against the Thunder.

Start with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. In five of the Heat's last six wins against the Thunder, they have combined with LeBron to score more than 60 percent Heat's points.

The only time they fell short of that mark was in Game 5 of The Finals. Plenty of Heat reserves got into the scoring column in that blowout. The Heatles still accounted for 57.8 percent of the team's points, so had it not been for the rout, they would've gone over 60 percent that night, too.

Now, if you look at the two times the Thunder has beat the Heat since the start of last season, there's a very obvious difference. LeBron, Wade and Bosh have fallen below that 60 percent threshold in those games.


by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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