DALLAS – LeBron James made more of an impact offensively in Game 5, scoring 17 points and dishing out 10 assists. Even in the fourth quarter, when he scored just two points, James kept the Dallas Mavericks’ defense honest and assisted on four layups or dunks.
And as James noted after his team’s 112-103 loss, the offensive end of the floor wasn’t the problem. But James’ defense down the stretch was.
After Game 3, Jason Terry was asked about James’ ability to stop him, and Terry responded with some strong words.
“We’re going to see if he can do it for seven games,” Terry said on Monday. “That’s going to be the challenge.”
Three nights later, with 1:33 left in the fourth quarter of Game 5, Terry looked pretty prophetic.
With the Mavs up two and seven seconds on the shot clock, Terry had the ball at the top of the key. He took a dribble to his right, crossed James over, and put James in his rear-view mirror on a drive left. The Heat defense was forced to collapse into the paint and Terry whipped the ball back to Jason Kidd at the top of the key. Kidd drained the three to put the Mavs up five.
I was really looking to get to the basket and draw a foul,” Terry said. “They do a great job of help defense. My outlet was Jason Kidd. He shoots it well from the spot he was in. The right decision. The right play to make.”
It was one of the most important defensive possessions of the Heat’s season, and James’ inability to keep Terry in front of him cost his team a chance to tie or take the lead on the other end of the floor. Miami still had a chance after that, but Terry hit a 3-point dagger in James’ face with 33 seconds left.
“He made big shots,” James said afterward. “Some of them was open. He’s just aggressive. We always said when he plays well, they’re very tough to beat. That’s what he’s done the last two games.”
James wasn’t defending Terry the whole night. He’s certainly not to blame for all of Terry’s 21 points and six assists. But Terry has found ways to remain effective with James defending him.
“You get things on film that you can see where you can be successful,” Terry said. “I can put the ball on the floor. I think that’s just something maybe they weren’t as prepared for. It’s something I see where I can have some success and is a part of being aggressive.”