He yelled. He trash-talked.
And he won, getting to watch his teammates do 20 push-ups as his reward.
There is a certain irony in James staying on the court after practice to work on his shooting, especially since there are nights he controls games without looking to score. When he took 11 shots in an NBA Finals game two years ago, he became a lightning rod for criticism.
These days, an 11-shot game from James _ like what he had Sunday when the Heat won Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series against Milwaukee _ gets celebrated for effective brilliance. He’s controlling the game in any number of ways, and will try to continue doing so when the Heat and Bucks meet in Game 2 of the best-of-seven matchup on Tuesday night in Miami.
“The narrative has changed about him, about our team,” Heat forward Shane Battier said. “A championship changes that. I don’t think LeBron’s changed. That’s who LeBron is. LeBron’s going to make the smart basketball play. He’s going to make the right play. If that entails him taking 11 shots and we win, he’s going to do it. If it entails him taking 30 shots, he’s going to do it.”
James will likely be named as the NBA’s MVP for the fourth time in five seasons sometime in the not-too-distant future, and with each season, he still seems to be getting better.
He made 9 of 11 shots on Sunday in Miami’s 110-87 win, finishing with 27 points and two assists shy of a triple-double. In his first seven-plus seasons, James never shot better than 75 percent in any game in which he took more than 10 shots. Since April 2011, he’s done it 11 times, including Sunday, and the Heat are 11-0 in those games.
“We don’t take his talent for granted because he does whatever it takes to help you win,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
When the Bucks broke down film after Game 1, coach Jim Boylan paid particular attention to the way his team defended James, a job that fell largely onto the shoulders of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.
Boylan raved about Mbah a Moute’s effort after seeing that film. James was just too good in Game 1.
“It’s hard to say, `You didn’t do this, you didn’t do that’ because Luc was into him the whole time,” Boylan said. “LeBron just had a great game.”
So now the trick for the Bucks _ who are 1-4 against Miami this season _ is finding ways to get Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis some help on the offensive end. Jennings and Ellis combined for 48 points in Game 1; their teammates chipped in only 39 more.
If that becomes a trend, the Bucks know they’ll be on vacation by early next week.
“No one’s in a panic,” Boylan said. “We’ve played one game. It’s time for us to take a look and see what we can do and figure out how we can help those guys.”