Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals is the moment of truth for the Miami Heat. They trail the San Antonio Spurs 3-2 in the series as they head back to Miami where it’s win or go home for the defending champs.
Miami will have to be better in Game 6 in a number of areas. They have to limit the open looks that Spurs’ shooters get, and they have to attack the rim more aggressively. More than anything, though, they need LeBron James to continue his streak of dominating performances in game 6s.
The Heat and LeBron have played in three game 6s over their past two playoff runs, two in 2012 and one this year. In those three games James has averaged 34 points, 9.3 rebounds, six assists and 1.7 steals per game while shooting 41-70 from the field. Judging by those numbers, it feels pretty safe to say that LeBron grasps the magnitude of game 6s in a tight series.
It’s no secret at this point that James hasn’t exactly looked like himself in the first five games against the Spurs. He’s averaging just 21.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 2.2 steals per game on only 43.6 percent shooting and 31.6 percent three-point shooting. He’s not been the offensive force that we saw throughout the regular season.
LeBron’s struggles are largely a testament to San Antonio’s defense that has forced him to play out of his comfort zone and not get into the lane as often as he’d like to. However, part of James’ struggles are also due to the fact that he seems to be mentally affected by the Spurs and isn’t playing with the same force and aggressiveness that he normally does as evidenced by the fact that he’s taken only 19 free throw attempts total through five games.
If there’s one thing that LeBron has shown, though, it’s that he has an extra gear when it comes to game 6s and elimination games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, James has averaged 31.5 points per game in playoff elimination games, which is more than anyone in the history of the league.
The question on everyone’s mind, though, is if James will be able to hit that extra gear against the Spurs. There’s no doubt that San Antonio will be prepared to slow down LeBron once again, and there’s no telling if James can get past his mentality at the moment. However, if there’s one player that could make it happen, it’s James. There’s a reason he’s the best player in the game right now, and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he put his talents on display on Tuesday night in Game 6.