CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – LeBron James’ dagger 3-pointer to ice a victory over the lowly Sacramento Kings in early December will probably not be in the first few minutes of his career highlight reel when all is said and done.
That being said, LeBron was positioned to knock down the stepback 3-pointer because of a play that is assuredly among the King’s most memorable moments.
“It’s a play we just call Chicago,” Cavaliers Head Coach Tyronn Lue said. “We ran it in Chicago against the Bulls when LeBron hit that 3 in the corner in front of their bench.”
That reference of course to James’ buzzer-beater over the Bulls to even the 2015 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
The play involves a gaggle screen away from James, where a player fakes a second screener and then cuts off the first screener’s hip. The screens are meant to occupy the defense while James gets into position to receive the ball.
Dwyane Wade found his friend LeBron, who took things home from there.
“He’s been making that shot a lot this year,” Lue added. “Very confident in it. He’s brought us home with a lot of those shots. Deep shots, stepback threes, but he can also get to the basket when he wants to.”
LeBron’s shooting has taken a much discussed step forward in his 15th NBA season, with that stepback being his go-to move. Fear the Sword’s Mike Zavagno pointed out that James is hitting unassisted triples at a historic rate this season.
He is shooting 41.6% in total despite being a 34.3% shooter from deep in his career.
“A lot of teams are not expecting me to shoot a lot of outside shots, but I feel as comfortable there as I do in the paint,” James said. “I’ll just continue to improve my game where I’m keeping defenders and defenses off-balance to where they don’t know where it is coming from.”
Headed into his age-33 season, LeBron noted his hard work from deep in the off-season. His teammate, one of the game’s best shooters ever in Kyle Korver, noted that there has been a change in James’ release point due to an elbow injury he had sustained last season.
It was Korver who salvaged what was a listless shooting night for the Cavs prior. After scoring just 19 points in the first quarter, the Cavaliers stumbled into the second half 5-of-18 from 3-point range.
James and company hit 5-of-12 triples in the 3rd quarter, cutting a 14-point Kings lead to 5 after 36 minutes. Korver gave the Cavaliers the lead by hitting three straight triples to open the 4th. His 31 trifectas in the 4th quarter are the most in the league.
Yet it was the King’s late heroics that caught Korver’s eye most.
“He’s amazing. He’s just demanding the ball. He says ‘give me the ball, we’re about to win,’” Korver said of James. “I’ve been with some guys who have had amazing years. Derrick (Rose) when he was MVP, Allen Iverson when I was young… he’s taken this to a whole new level. It’s amazing to have a better than a front row seat because I’m usually right next to him on the court.”