Have Pacers solved LeBron James?
by Adi Joseph, USA TODAY Sports
There’s a lot of video out there of LeBron James playing basketball. A YouTube search for his name comes up with about 954,000 results.
People have watched the reigning NBA MVP play. Those people include the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers include David West. And West definitely has seen LeBron James play.
The Pacers power forward batted away two of James’ passes in the final minute of Indiana’s 97-93 victory in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals. It’s reasonable to say the Miami Heat would be holding a 2-0 series lead right now if not for West and the Pacers’ scouting department.
They have James’ number … or at least his passing habits.
The first steal was downright brilliant basketball. James brought the ball up the court and went to the right side of the top of the key. Heat guard Ray Allen set a soft pick, then rolled out along the three-point line. West saw this play coming. As Lance Stephenson, who had been guarding Allen, fronted James, West threw his arms up while heading toward Allen on the switch. His timing was perfect, even if the Pacers didn’t do anything with the possession except waste time before a 24-second violation.
After that violation, James again brought the ball up. This time, he dribbled into the post, then pivoted, looking for a teammate. West instinctively guessed he might be looking for Allen on the wing again, and he guessed right. The ball landed in George Hill’s hands, and he made both free throws to seal the win. The play was one part brilliant scouting, one part luck.
But so much of basketball is just that. The Pacers play defense well because they are so smart, along with having West and Hill and Paul George and Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson, all outstanding one-on-one defenders. And they’ve done their homework on the best player in the world.
But James is just that. He will adjust. He can adjust. There really isn’t anything he can’t do on a basketball court. And the Pacers didn’t exactly limit him. He made play after play, including an absurd crosscourt pass … [For more on Playoff Putbacks: Have Pacers solved LeBron James?, click here.]