Bucks need more punch against Heat
MIAMI Long after just about every Miami Heat player left the practice court on Monday, LeBron James stayed behind for a 3-point shooting contest against Ray Allen and Mario Chalmers.
He yelled. He trash-talked.
And he won, getting to watch his teammates do 20 push-ups as his reward.
There is a certain irony in James staying on the court after practice to work on his shooting, especially since there are nights he controls games without looking to score. When he took 11 shots in an NBA Finals game two years ago, he became a lightning rod for criticism.
These days, an 11-shot game from James — like what he had Sunday when the Heat won Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series against Milwaukee — gets celebrated for effective brilliance. He’s controlling the game in any number of ways, and will try to continue doing so when the Heat and Bucks meet in Game 2 of the best-of-seven matchup on Tuesday night in Miami.
“The narrative has changed about him, about our team,” Heat forward Shane Battier said. “A championship changes that. I don’t think LeBron’s changed. That’s who LeBron is. LeBron’s going to make the smart basketball play. He’s going to make the right play. If that entails him taking 11 shots and we win, he’s going to do it. If it entails him taking 30 shots, he’s going to do it.”
James will likely be named as the NBA’s MVP for the fourth time in five seasons sometime in the not-too-distant future, and with each season, he still seems to be getting better.
He made 9 of 11 shots on Sunday in Miami’s 110-87 win, finishing with 27 points and two assists shy of a triple-double. In his first seven-plus seasons, James never shot better than 75 percent in any game in which he took more than 10 shots. Since April 2011, he’s done it 11 times, including Sunday, and the Heat are 11-0 in those games.
“We don’t take his talent for granted because he does whatever it takes to help you win,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
When the Bucks broke down film after Game 1, coach Jim Boylan paid particular attention to the way his team defended James, a job that fell largely onto the shoulders of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.
Boylan raved about Mbah a Moute’s effort after seeing that film. James was just too good in Game 1.
“It’s hard to say, ‘You didn’t do this, you didn’t do that’ because Luc was into him the whole time,” Boylan said. “LeBron just had a great game.”
So now the trick for the Bucks — who are 1-4 against Miami this season — is finding ways to get Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis some help on the offensive end. Jennings and Ellis combined for 48 points in Game 1; their teammates chipped in only 39 more.
If that becomes a trend, the Bucks know they’ll be on vacation by early next week.
“No one’s in a panic,” Boylan said. “We’ve played one game. It’s time for us to take a look and see what we can do and figure out how we can help those guys.”
There were some encouraging signs for the Bucks on Monday.
Center Larry Sanders, who has battled back pain in recent weeks and was marred by foul trouble that kept him from finding anything close to a rhythm in Game 1, said he felt as good Monday — 80 percent right was his estimation — as he has in a while. And Boylan said Ersan Ilyasova, who has dealt with a wrist problem, shouldn’t still be adversely affected by that issue.
“For us, I don’t think we look at it as it’s a seven-game series and we’ve got to win four out of seven,” Bucks forward Mike Dunleavy said. “We’ve got to win one game. When we win one game, then we’ll say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to win another one game.’ To look at it as a whole and say we’ve got to beat these guys four times out of seven when they haven’t lost four times out of 50, it’s monumental.”
That team that Dunleavy said hasn’t lost four times out of 50 — actually, the Heat are 43-4 in their last 47 games — looked at itself with very critical eyes on Monday.
The videotape session that Spoelstra arranged for the Heat at the start of practice Monday lasted an hour, and the clips were not ones the team particularly enjoyed seeing. A night loaded with mistakes were on display in high-definition. Some, including Dwyane Wade, said the scene had a day-after-a-loss feel.
And remember, it was actually after a 23-point win.
“That’s one thing Coach Spo does a great job of,” Wade said. “He’s always making sure that we move on and we move into the new moment. That moment has passed. That’s one thing he’s been very consistent at.”
One area where the Heat struggled in Game 1 was 3-point shooting, where they went 7 for 23. So maybe that was why James lured Allen and Chalmers into that post-practice contest.
He would yell at his shots, pleading with them to “Get up” or “Sit down.” When Chalmers or Allen would miss, James would shout “That’s what I needed.” And when he took his final attempt, the one that clinched the game, James knew he’d won when the ball was still in flight, saying “Game time” just before the shot went down.
“I’ve got to stay ready, I guess,” James said. “I’ve got to stay ready.”
Last updated: 10:23 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013