LeBron James Directing Flow Against the Magic

LeBron James often does things on the basketball court that make it seem as though he is not of this world. LeBron’s preposterous athleticism combined with his outrageous shotmaking ability momentarily fool us into believing he is not actually a human, but a robot programmed to perform high-level basketball functions. His ability to not just run, but conduct, the Miami Heat offense is almost–if not equally–impressive as those athletic feats, yet rarely does it draw “inhuman” raves from fans and scribes.

Last night’s game against the Magic shows just how far advanced LeBron’s directing skills are.

LeBron NoNo

Take this play from the first quarter. The Heat have run the shot clock down to 8 seconds and LeBron has the ball near the top of the key. Norris Cole is open-ish on the wing for a three if LeBron wants to give him the ball, but instead he points toward the corner and tells Cole to camp out there and wait. So wait in the corner Cole does, and LeBron just holds the ball at the top of the key for three more seconds. When the clock gets down to five, LeBron knifes through the lane, and by the time there are 3 seconds on the shot clock, he’s drawn four Magic defenders, which of course leaves Cole wide open for that corner three LeBron was hunting.

LeBron NoNo2

The Heat made 10 corner threes on the evening, of which LeBron assisted on six. He had 11 assists in all, producing an outrageous 30 points just through his passing.

Later in the first half, he hit Rashard Lewis for two corner threes in transition within a minute and 15 seconds, in the process helping take the Heat from a 42-39 deficit to a 50-42 lead. Each pass was progressively more impressive than the next, with LeBron first penetrating the middle of the court and firing a two-handed bullet to Lewis in the right corner, and then quickly bringing the ball up the left side on the break before feigning his shoulder slightly toward the middle and throwing an underhand pass back across his body to the left corner.

His last assist of the half may have been my personal favorite. With the Magic playing a familiar strong side overload defense when LeBron isolated on the left wing, the rest of the Heat spread themselves out along the perimeter.

LeBron good

All five Magic defenders have their eyes trained on LeBron here, so he can simply pick out which shooter he’d like to deliver the pass to. He chooses Lewis in the far corner, basically nonchalanting the pass over the entire defense like it was nothing, which, to him, it probably was.

The second half brought more of the same. He directed traffic, moved his teammates where he wanted them to go and picked his spots with well-timed and well-placed passes along the way. Whether it was a simple pass to Ray Allen coming off a double pin-down screen or a one-handed-in-one-motion fast break lob to Birdman Anderson, he made everything look incredibly easy, though you can tell from the angles and velocity with which the passes were delivered, it was anything but.

LeBron NoNo3

If this screenshot looks a little familiar, it should. It’s essentially a mirror image of the play from the first half. LeBron baits every Magic defender into thinking he’s driving left, then fires a cross-court skip pass over the top of the defense to Cole waiting in the corner. And then, as they say, kaboom.

Lefty, over-the-top cross court kickout to Ray Allen in the corner on the break? No problem. One-handed bullet from the left block to the right wing while the entire defense is concentrated on denying your entry to the lane? The man just makes it all appear too easy. It wasn’t close to LeBron’s best or most impressive game of the year, and he basically just toyed with the Magic for an entire evening. Maybe he really isn’t human.

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