MIAMI — If anybody has an idea, please drop it in the Milwaukee Bucks’ suggestion box.
With perhaps just a week left in his tenure as Bucks coach, Jim Boylan is looking for any way he can find to slow down LeBron James at least a little. After watching the Miami Heat star have a near triple-double Sunday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, all Boylan could do was throw his hands up.
“When you have a game like that, what can you do?’’ Boylan said after his Bucks fell 110-87 in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series. “I thought Luc (Mbah a Moute) battled him well. I thought Marquis (Daniels) battled him, tried to make him as uncomfortable as possible. The guy’s the best player in the world right now. So what can you do? You just tip your hat to him.’’
At least Boylan can take solace in knowing James never had shot a better percentage from the field in 115 previous playoff games. He was 9 of 11 for 81.8 percent while having a near triple-double with 27 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in 35 minutes.
Edgar Rice Burroughs, best known for creating “Tarzan,’’ once wrote a novel called the “The Efficiency Expert.’’ Too bad that title is taken, because that’s what James has become.
Even James sometimes can’t comprehend the levels he reaches.
“I’m setting the bar actually too high for myself, to come out here and shoot what I did tonight, 9 of 11, and the games I’ve been shooting,’’ James said. “If I go 9 for 18, then you guys look at me crazy.’’
Yeah, by James standards, 50 percent would be pretty crummy. James now has shot 69.6 percent in the past 10 overall games he has played, never having gone below 58. A staggering five times during the stretch he’s been above 70 percent.
James’ 11 field-goal attempts Sunday were a career playoff low. One reason he’s performing so well is he has so many weapons around him that he can be quite selective in his shot selection.
“We have so many threats out on the floor, it allows me to just play without any stress because I know guys on our team can make plays with or without me on the floor,’’ said James, helped out Sunday by 20 points from Ray Allen, 16 courtesy of Dwyane Wade and 15 from Chris Bosh.
James without stress in the playoffs? That’s a scary thought for foes.
James said Friday it really would help his playoff state mentally and physically having taken six late-season games off to rest. James was quite refreshed to start the postseason, although it wasn’t as if he had been dragging in any previous games.
“Any little rest you can get throughout the NBA season, it helps us all,’’ James said. “The season is very taxing mentally, physically, emotionally, everything. So when you have an opportunity to get a little rest, it definitely helps for me in particular. It definitely helped me a lot.’’
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said James was a “live wire’’ in the team’s practices Friday and Saturday. Wade said the rest helped James, who has been playing basketball nearly nonstop for the past 1 ½ years, which included spending last summer helping Team USA win an Olympic gold medal.
“Yeah,’’ Wade said. “He’s in playoff mode. He’s the guy that we needed. He’s been playing basketball consecutively for a while, and he needed (some rest) mentally as well as to get away from it. Now, he’s in playoff mode, and I’ve seen that when he dunked that one with the left …. Now, he’s focused on that goal, and his goal is to dominate every game and help take this team to the championship.’’
The dunk by James that Wade was referring to came on a magnificent drive late in a third quarter that saw the Heat outscore the Bucks 28-20 to take a comfortable 80-65 lead. The advantage grew to as many as 23 in the fourth quarter, allowing James and Wade to go to the bench for good with 3:40 remaining.
With James leading the way, there were plenty of efficient players on the Heat, who shot 55.9 percent. Reserve center Chris Andersen shot 4 of 4 and had 10 points and seven rebounds in just 16 minutes.
The “Birdman’’ flapped his wings several times. James even followed suit with a flap of his own for the high-flying Heat.
“It’s not so much his scoring, it’s everything (James is) doing in the game, just getting everybody involved,’’ said guard Brandon Jennings, who had 26 points and was the only Milwaukee player besides backcourt mate Monta Ellis (22) to reach double figures. “Every time he has the ball, he draws so much attention to himself. So sometimes you can be falling asleep out there just worried about LeBron.’’
It was Jennings who predicted Milwaukee would beat the Heat in six games. That’s about as foolish as thinking the Bucks actually might be able to find a way to slow down James.