by Ryne Nelson / @slaman10
It’s tough to forget a 36-point loss—the third-largest margin of victory in NBA Finals history. It’s difficult to get over shooting just 7-21 and no trips to the free-throw line. It’s not easy to carry the weight of an entire team on your back.
It’s gotta be tough to be LeBron James right now.
With a red Heat practice jersey draped around his neck like a cape, Miami’s leader took the mic before the Heat got down to practice Wednesday afternoon. He spoke to the media for 11 minutes in San Antonio, and the MVP made it clear that he will play better in Game 4. He has to play better.
“Last night I played like shit,” he said.
Confident that Miami would turn things around in Game 4, LeBron reiterated that he’s taking full responsibility for the team: “I put all the pressure on my chest, on my shoulders to come through for our team. It’s that simple.”
“I gotta do whatever it takes. Seven-for-21 isn’t going to cut it. Zero free-throws,” LeBron said. “I will be better tomorrow.”
As certain as a redoubled King James effort is, Tony Parker’s status for Game 4 is not. Parker, who has a Grade 1 hamstring strain, is officially listed as day-to-day and was sitting courtside at the team’s practice.
“If it was the regular season, I would definitely have rest. I would not play,” Parker said. “Obviously it’s the Finals, you know. I know [coach Gregg Popovich] is always going to prefer we take no risk.”
But playing Parker might be a risk Popovich needs to take in order to bring the Larry O’Brien back to San Antonio.
“I want to wait until tomorrow before I make a decision whether he should play or not.” Popovich said. “And obviously a lot of it will have to do with Tony, and what happens to him during the day, and how I think his play will affect our team, whether good or bad.”
From the anticipation of King James’ wrath, to Parker’s questionable status—here’s more notes from Wednesday’s practice and media session:
• Danny Green has outscored Dwyane Wade and LeBron James in the Finals, and his seven triples in Game 3 were one short of Ray Allen’s all-time Finals mark. “If someone told me a week ago that I’d be outscoring LeBron and Dwyane Wade in the Finals, I would have said, You’re lying. Stop messing with me,” Green said.
• Green on being in the zone: “It’s a lot of fun. It makes the game easier just to play and not think about much. It’s a lot easier to do it when you’re winning the basketball game. Obviously, there’s been games where I’ve been hitting some shots, but we’re losing and it’s not as easy to have fun.”
• Green on his comment about LeBron stopping himself: “I’m not blaming him, but I’m just saying, we all know what he’s capable of doing. And I don’t know what’s going on, but it seems as if he’s not playing his best basketball right now. And it’s not just us. We’re doing a decent job of making it tough for him, but he’s not playing normal LeBron basketball.”
• Lost in the Gary Neal/Danny Green praise was Kawhi Leonard, who again made matters very difficult for the King. Here’s Tim Duncan on Leonard: “I don’t think he expresses enough emotion to know if [he ever loses confidence in himself]. He’s always the same. He’s always even keeled and he always looks like he’s right where he wants to be.”
• Popovich on Leonard’s confidence: “Kawhi has never spoken to me. So I don’t really know what his level of confidence is, but watching him play, it seems he has no problem in that area. He just plays and goes home.”
• Pop on the how the Spurs compensated for the loss of Parker: “Everybody else stepped up, I guess.”
• Duncan on limiting LeBron: “He’s the best player in the world, so we’re respecting him as that. So we’re trying to make his life as difficult as possible every time he touches the ball. When he comes out in the open court, that’s obviously where he really thrives. If we can keep those away and keep his rhythm down, it’s better for us.”
• Dwyane Wade said the Heat “got away from some trust” in Game 3,”and commented on the Big Three having to play like…the Big Three: “If us three don’t lead the charge, we’re not going to be NBA Champions. Our teammates count on us, so we have to step up.”
• Wade on disappearing in the second half of Game 3: “I got some shots in the second half that I liked. I just missed them. I think out of my 15 shots, 14 of them I would love to take every time. I thought one of them I rushed, but the rest was good shots.”
• Coach Erik Spoelstra on LeBron taking responsibility for the team: “No, it’s not all on him—it’s all of us. That’s what we talked about in there. Every single player in that locker room, the guys that played and what they brought to the game, and the staff and what we brought to the game. All of us collectively need to do a better job tomorrow night. That’s our focus the next 24 hours.”
Maurice Bobb and I will be back at the AT&T Center tomorrow night live-blogging Game 4. See you then!