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?
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.
If LeBron is going to get his — and it sure looks like he will — the first thing that the Thunder has to do is keep Wade and Bosh from scoring as much.
That's asking a lot, of course. These two guys are All-Stars and Olympians. Count them among the best players in the world.
Still, the Thunder has better defensive matchups for Wade and Bosh than it does for LeBron. Focus on that. Play to your strong suit. Sic Thabo Sefolosha on Wade and Serge Ibaka on Bosh, and let two of your best defenders go to work.
But wait, there's more.
The thing that has killed the Thunder of late against the Heat is a career performance from a guy not named James, Wade or Bosh.
In Game 2 of The Finals, Shane Battier had 17 points.
In Game 4, Mario Chalmers had 25.
In Game 5, Mike Miller had 23.
On Christmas Day earlier this season, Chalmers had 20.
The Thunder has to figure out a way to end that madness. Those are good players, but those performances rank among their best. I mean, Chalmers has more zero-point games this season (three) than 20-point games (two).
Think of it this way: if Chalmers scores his usual seven or eight points on Christmas, the Thunder wins by a couple possessions.
I know the temptation is there to help on LeBron. I get it. When he starts dribbling and gets going toward the basket, everyone wants to step in and try to stop the freight train. But that's when the rest of the Heat will kill you. They wait for the defense to sag off, they let LeBron pass to them, then they have open shots.
Want to throw off the Heat, Scott Brooks? Want to take a different approach against the best player on the planet at a time he's playing better than ever before?
Want to do something crazy that just might work?
Let LeBron get his.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.