Popovich's Secret To Guarding LeBron: 'Hope He Doesn't Play Well'

| by Jonathan Wolfe

Last week, Indians pitcher Justin Masterson pitched the perfect inning – nine pitches, nine strikes, three strikeouts.Yesterday, LeBron James responded to worldwide criticism of his cramping leg with a (nearly) perfect third quarter.

James scored 14 of his game-high 35 points in the quarter and only missed one shot doing it. He wasn’t driving to the rack and dropping in layups, either. His ridiculous 86% shooting percentage for the quarter was posted while he dropped mid-range jumpers and three’s from all over the court.

"For me, once I get into a good groove, I feel like everything is going to go in," James said.

I think ever body else – San Antonio included – felt the same way last night. 

After the game, a reporter asked Gregg Popovich why his team didn’t double-team LeBron more on a night when he was clearly locked in. Popovich’s answer pointed to one of the most special parts of James’ game: his passing skills.

“Well, you can double him if you want,” Pop said. “He’s a pretty good player. I’m going to guess that he’s going to find the open man.”

When asked before the fourth quarter how the Spurs planned to slow James down, Popovich said his team would "hope he doesn't play well."

LeBron’s ability to play like a big man, a point guard, and pure scorer all in one night is why some believe a LeBron-Magic comparison makes more sense than a LeBron-Jordan one. Bosh spoke on the distribution side of James’ skill set after the game.

"He's the most unselfish player I've ever played with," Bosh said. "And especially with the talent he has playing the game, the way he plays the game. He doesn't, you know, try to force anything. Even if he's hot he'll still hit you if you're wide open. And that's what makes this team special because your best player is willing to sacrifice a shot, a good shot, for a great shot. You have to commend him for that."

Everything worked for the Heat last night, and they’re headed back to Miami with 1-1 series tie because of it.

Here’s every point from James’ 35-point performance: