LeBron James is a unique player, not just in regard to his skill set, but also in regard to the numbers he puts up. Few players through the years have been able to match the combination of points, rebounds and assists that James records on a nightly basis. And even fewer have been able to do it while scoring so efficiently.
In his second postseason with the Heat, with Chris Bosh having missed half of the team’s 12 games, James has increased his scoring and rebounding to numbers reminiscent of his days in Cleveland. Through Game 1 of the conference finals, James is averaging 29.3 points, 9.1 rebounds and 5.7 assists.
Those numbers have only been achieved three other times in NBA history. And James is responsible for two of those other occurrences, in 2009 and 2010, his last two seasons with the Cavs.
Oscar Robertson is responsible for the other one, averaging 31.8 points, 13.0 rebounds and 9.0 assists over 12 games in the 1963 postseason. But if you throw in one more qualifier — 50 percent shooting — Robertson, who shot 47 percent that year, drops out. And all you’re left with is three James postseasons.
For James, the difference between last postseason and this one is more than just Bosh’s absence. Right after Game 1 of the first round, when Bosh was still very healthy, James explained.
“I’m a different player this year,” he said. “I’m a different person this year.”
The difference is a comfort level with his teammates and with the Heat’s system. And it helps that the Heat aren’t under the microscope quite as much as they were in their first year together.
“There was more pressure felt last year,” James said.
James’ coach and teammates have noticed a difference in the MVP.
“I see his comfort level with our group,” Erik Spoelstra said. “He is more vocal than he was last year. And that’s natural, coming to a new franchise, new players, new teammates. But he’s been able to step forward more as a vocal leader to our guys.”
Interestingly, Spoelstra sees James as more mature and “a lot more serious about what we have ahead.” Yet Mike Miller, James’ teammate and friend, sees it a little differently.
“He seems a lot more loose, enjoying himself,” Miller said of James. “That’s the only way he can play basketball.”
Whether he’s looser, more serious or both, James is putting up big numbers, the kind that only he can match.
Here’s a look at players who have averaged at least 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists, while shooting at least 50 percent over a minimum of 12 postseason games…
Postseason average of at least 25 PPG, 8 RPG, 5 APG & 50% shooting
Minimum 12 games
The closest Michael Jordan came to making the list was in 1989-90, when he averaged 36.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists, while shooting 51.4 percent in 16 games.
Magic Johnson averaged 25 points in only one postseason, 1989-90. But he too was short on the rebounds (6.3), and played in only nine games that year. He also shot just below 50 percent.
Wilt Chamberlain twice averaged more than five assists in a postseason, in 1966-67 and ’67-68 with the Sixers. But in neither postseason did he average 25 points.
As good as James’ teams have been over the years, they’ve never been so dominant with him on the floor as the Heat have been in these playoffs. Miami has been outscored by five points in 90 minutes with James on the bench, but the Heat have outscored their opponents by almost 15 points per 100 possessions when he’s been in the game.
LeBron James’ postseason on-court team efficiency
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
James is shooting fewer threes than he has in any postseason, and shooting them pretty poorly (10-for-41, 24 percent). But he’s making up for that by getting into the paint more often. For the first time in his career, he has taken more than half of his postseason shots from the paint.
LeBron James’ postseason shots in the paint
%FGA = Percentage of total field goal attempts
About 35 percent of James’ shots are coming from the restricted area, where he’s shooting an incredible 75.3 percent (67-for-89). Only one player who has attempted at least 25 shots from the restricted area in this postseason has been better: Dwyane Wade, who’s 55-for-70 (78.6 percent).