Remember that pre-NBA title joke about superstar LeBron James involving three quarters and change?
There was a time when the reigning NBA MVP shied away from the big moment, specifically in the fourth quarter of tight games, where he would refrain from taking the last shot or struggle mightily in the final period.
That guy is not around anymore.
On Sunday, it was the Los Angeles Lakers that did what James used to do in a 107-97 loss, and LeBron’s old ways are a distant memory when it comes to the NBA’s best player. That’s because Los Angeles actually played sound basketball through three quarters, amassing just seven turnovers and shot a reasonable 46.6 percent from the field while being down just five.
Then, they virtually disappeared in the fourth quarter and got outscored 29-24. Though the point disparity wasn’t particularly large, the first and most glaring aspect of L.A. being overmatched was the turnover differential. Eight of the Lakers’ 15 total came in the fourth quarter alone, and Miami turned those into eight points, six coming off fast break opportunities without committing a single giveaway of their own. Dwyane Wade got loose and scored 16 points in the quarter, going 6-of-7 in the process as the Lakers had no answers for him defensively.
The Lakers were exposed for the old souls they are, and Miami plays well to L.A.’s weaknesses, namely in transition defense and pushing the ball up the floor.
James is no longer the guy no one can count on at the end of games in the final quarter. He’s dangerous for all 48 minutes. The same can’t be said for the Lakers, however, and they appear to have morphed into the old LeBron James, but perhaps not even as good as that at 24-28 in 2012-13.