LeBron James credits a damning but accurate tweet for his hot play

LeBron James with the high-percentage shot. (Getty Images)
LeBron James with the high-percentage shot. (Getty Images)

On Sunday, in a surprisingly close win over the Philadelphia 76ers, LeBron James tied his season high with 37 points. His Cavaliers have won six consecutive games, and not only has James hit for 43 percent of his three-pointers during that spell, he’s hit for nearly 58 percent from the floor while making over half of his shots from the midrange.

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Those are sound numbers. Potent numbers. The numbers that came before that, up until the hours before the team’s win over Denver on Dec. 29, weren’t as pretty. You’ve no doubt seen this tweet:

James no doubt saw the tweet, which most of us presumed was inspiration behind the hot shooting streak that followed. On Sunday night, LeBron confirmed as much. In a talk with Chris Haynes at the Cleveland Plain Dealer (via Pro Basketball Talk):

“I actually saw [it] on my Instagram feed that I was the worst-shooting player in the NBA," James said. "I actually saw that when I woke up from a nap. I remember exactly when that was. Denver. Right before the Denver game, so I answered the call."

[…]

"I've played in a lot of big games in my career. I've seen it all and I've always just tried to stay even-keel," James said. "They look at me as the leader of this team and I have to be that way all year round.”

LBJ, famously and intelligently, picks and chooses when to go all out. He’s played deep into June six times in his career, deep into May four other times, he’s spent the bulk of his offseason with Team USA five different times and he’s been in the league since he was 18. By all sensible predictions, he’ll be playing deep into June again this season.

This was supposed to be the time of year James dialed back. He took an extended break last season from Dec. 30 until Jan. 11, and it was assumed that the same pattern would follow this year. LeBron would go out over the first two months of 2015-16 and kill it with Kevin Love recovering and Kyrie Irving possibly out until late December, then dial back as two-former All-Stars returned to full health.

Instead, he’s playing his best basketball of the season at the same time he took a needed break last year. Part of this inspiration likely has to do with his goal to play as close to all 82 games as he can, but part of that also had to be the realization that his outside stroke was broken for two months.

As in, “league-leading, broken.”

At some point in a campaign “early-season struggles” (shooting percentages for most players tend to start slow and rise as the year moves along) turn into “a trend worth following.” And even for someone as mindful as LeBron, it’s easy to lose sight of how the season is rolling along; suddenly it’s nearly the New Year and nobody thinks you can shoot any more. There was legitimate concern that lo these many years of heavy minutes and big shots had taken its toll, even if James was still scoring efficiently and playing MVP-styled (if not “MVP-winning”) ball overall.

Hot licks and rhetoric don’t count much for nothin’ in January, especially with games featuring four different future lottery participants making up the bulk of that Cleveland winning streak. Still, you know James not only saw Schuhmann’s tweet, but also saw what was coming up following Sunday’s road game in Philly.

Dallas, Houston, San Antonio. All in Texas. Then, on Monday, the team’s final regular season game of the year against the champion Golden State Warriors (a squad that could be 39-2 at that point). And Cleveland still has a contest with the white-hot Clippers and their chief Eastern rival from Chicago left before the month is through.

Again, James was having a fantastic year prior to the tweet despite shooting just 28 percent from outside the paint, but it certainly now helps that he isn’t leaning back or fading left on his jumpers as much over this streak, and the results are what you’d expect.

It wouldn’t be right to also expect LeBron to keep this up – he’s a career 34 percent three-point shooter, for instance, and shot a below-league average 35 percent last year – but in warming news the typical athletic hallmarks (rebound rate, block rate, steal rate, free throws per minute) are just about in line with his career marks, even at an old 31-years of age.

LeBron James has already passed his toughest test of the year so far – getting that jumper back on track. Now he’s about to face down perhaps his toughest regular season test of 2015-16: The Texas Triangle, followed by a chance to give Golden State perhaps its third loss since June 9. That was the night LeBron James scored 40 points with 12 rebounds, eight assists, four steals and two blocks.

He also shot like crap that night – missing 20 of 34 from the field and four of six threes. Maybe get back to clanging a few next week, LeBron. It appears to be the only thing that beats the Warriors.

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Kelly Dwyer

is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!