Score Strip

  1. League: NBA
  2. Washington vs. Boston
    End 3rd
    91 WAS
    75 BOS
  3. Houston vs. New Orleans
    11:23 4th
    78 HOU
    80 NO
  4. Brooklyn vs. Cleveland
    11:40 4th
    66 BKN
    81 CLE
  5. Philadelphia vs. Miami
    3:02 3rd
    75 PHI
    63 MIA
  6. Atlanta vs. Milwaukee
    11:14 4th
    82 ATL
    83 MIL
  7. Utah vs. Minnesota
    10:49 4th
    87 UTA
    73 MIN
  8. Toronto vs. New York
    :01.0 3rd
    73 TOR
    74 NY
  9. LA Lakers vs. San Antonio
    6:48 4th
    97 LAL
    83 SA
  10. Detroit vs. Oklahoma City
    1:17 3rd
    82 DET
    76 OKC
  11. Dallas vs. Memphis
    3:02 3rd
    67 DAL
    73 MEM
  12. Indiana vs. Orlando
    101 IND
    86 ORL
  13. Chicago vs. Charlotte
    Final OT
    86 CHI
    91 CHA
  14. Golden State vs. Denver
    10:30 PM
  15. LA Clippers vs. Portland
    10:30 PM
  16. Phoenix vs. Sacramento
    10:30 PM
  17. View All

LeBron James regressing – for the moment – to dark days of Finals disaster against Mavericks

Adrian Wojnarowski
Yahoo Sports

SAN ANTONIO – On his way out of the most humiliating night since the NBA Finals debacle of 2011 against Dallas, LeBron James marched past the laughing, mocking masses left in the AT&T Center and pushed to the front of a Miami Heat procession of flushed faces and empty eyes. Here trundled team owner Micky Arison, the executive Alonzo Mourning, the coach, the flustered supporting cast trailing James out of Game 3, out of a haze.

James beat everyone down the runway, past the endless black curtains and into the dark, brooding place the best player on the planet goes when failure's flooded him this way. James moved swiftly, but there was no distancing himself from this 113-77 defeat to the Spurs, no deflecting shame.

The Spurs secured a 2-1 lead in these best-of-seven Finals, and James understood that the storyline is no longer his struggling supporting cast. The story is simple: Slowly, surely, San Antonio is gaining a grip on him, reducing him to something out of his most vulnerable playoff past. Unsure, unaggressive and ultimately unacceptable.

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One Spur says LeBron James has stopped himself during stretches of the Finals. (AP)

"I've got to play better," James insisted late Tuesday night in the losing locker room. And there was no hesitation out of him. No need to prompt him. If James couldn't play the part of the franchise star and MVP on the floor in Game 3, he did it outside his locker with the cameras and notebooks surrounding him.

"If I'm better, we're better," James declared. "I'm putting everything on my chest and my shoulders. I've got to be better. I'm not doing my part.

"I can't have a performance like that and expect to win the game. I've got to do more, it's that's simple. I've got to do more.

"I've got to be able to put the ball into the basket."

For the first time, the words tumbled out of his mouth: He needs to score. As desperately as James tried to do so in Game 3, the Spurs made it difficult for him. He missed 14 of 21 shots – ended with 15 points and five assists – and let young Kawhi Leonard manhandle him on both ends of the floor.

Truth be told, Leonard has been remarkable defending James, staying step for step, using his footwork, strength and long reach to disrupt him. Sometimes, he missed jumpers. Sometimes, he failed to finish at the rim. Sometimes, James had been unwilling to pursue his shot.

[Related: Gary Neal, Danny Green star in humiliation of LeBron James, Heat]

The Heat are desperate for him to control bigger swaths of this series. James has had his moments in these Finals, but moments won't beat the Spurs.

There's nothing novel, nor revolutionary with how they've defended James. Nevertheless, they're going under his pick-and-rolls, dampening his enthusiasm to drive the ball, daring him to shoot jump shots. They've rotated two defenders to meet him in the paint and been relentless in retreating in transition to stifle easy baskets.

"We know he's not at his best now," the Spurs' Danny Green said. "He missed a lot of shots he normally makes. It's not just us stopping him. He's kind of stopped himself out there and we're getting a little lucky."

Somehow, James has been held under 17 points a game in these Finals, and those stats won't be remembered should the Heat win a championship. After Game 2, James could declare himself a facilitator. After Game 3, he was a failure. That's how it goes, and that's how it'll be remembered.

These past 18 months have been all about James' greatness – the MVP season, the championship, the Olympic gold medal and another MVP; all about his will to be dominate on a moment's notice. When James has needed to call upon a magnificent performance, it's been there for him. Now, these Spurs are testing James in a way that no one has done since the Mavericks in '11.

The greatness of the Spurs is the way they demand everything out of an opponent, challenge them with mind and body, and that's the onus on LeBron James now: Down 2-1, two games left in San Antonio, and the weight of it all belongs to him at the moment.

"I'm owning everything that I did tonight," James said.

James had been the first filing into the losing locker room on Tuesday night, and would soon be the first out of there. His brow furrowed, his eyes hardened, LeBron James tossed on a set of headphones, turned up the sound and started marching out of the arena, out of Game 3, out of the most miserable night since those bitter losses to Dallas two years ago. Alone with his thoughts, alone with the burden, the best player on the planet has nowhere to run, nowhere to hide and no one to blame.

NBA Finals coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
Spurs dominate Game 3 despite lack of star power
Danny Green, Gary Neal lead Finals-record charge as Spurs crush impotent Heat
Gary Neal sums up Game 3 with buzzer-beating 3-pointer
Spurs' Danny Green, Gary Neal took long road to center stage of NBA Finals

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