Could LeBron James become the first player in history to average a triple-double in the Finals? It’s more than just a historical question; it also is a central factor in how this series might end up playing out. Because the San Antonio Spurs may be just fine with it -- in fact, it might be an indicator that their game plan is working. It’s become clear the Spurs want to use James’ instincts against him, even if that means he gets what they consider meaningless triple-doubles. Heading into Game 3 Tuesday night, James is just a couple of assists short of that triple-double average (17.5 points, 13 rebounds, 8.5 assists). Only 10 players have ever averaged a triple-double in a playoff series, and only Jason Kidd (twice) has done it in the past 20 years. It’s never been done in the Finals. Kidd, Magic Johnson and Wilt Chamberlain are the only ones to have done it as late as the conference finals. Move beyond those stat thresholds, though, and understand why James is seeing this surge across the board in numbers. He was “only” averaging six assists per game, for example, in the 16 playoff games heading into the Finals. The answer is because the Spurs are baiting him into becoming more of a distributor with a defensive strategy aimed at forcing the ball out of his hands. That means assists are going to go up, but it also means the Spurs are making much more inconsistent players such as Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller or Udonis Haslem beat them, or players who are injured or slumping, such as Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Simply put, this is a deal the Spurs will take anytime. In Game 2, the Chalmers-Allen-Miller trio got the best of them. When the Spurs got on the plane to head home for a week, though, their heads likely were pretty clear when it came to their defensive game plan. They need to clean up things on offense, especially those turnovers. But so far, the Spurs are winning in the vital game-within-a-game of how to control James.
LeBron and the triple-double conundrum
ESPN | Jun 11