Head coach Gregg Popovich’s teams have always given the Lakers issues, but the talent was too much to handle for a Spurs team that has really struggled as of late. San Antonio did a good job of mucking up the game and forcing the Lakers role players to step up after a relatively quiet half from James and Anthony Davis.
However, the second half was another story as the All-Star duo kickstarted a huge 30-7 run that gave Los Angeles a double-digit lead and they never looked back after. James dominated the offensive end as he finished the night with a double-double of 33 points and 14 assists while also hitting 4-of-7 three-point attempts.
In his walk-off interview, James actually credited the Spurs for his improvement shooting the basketball, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“I just want to be able to not have any weaknesses and allow a defense to dictate what I do. Because of the Spurs in a lot of my early years is part of the reason why my jumpshot is a lot better today. My first Finals appearance in ’07, they went under everything and I didn’t shoot the ball. I wasn’t comfortable with shooting the ball at that point in time of my career.
I give a lot of thanks to their scheme. A lot of thanks to a lotta other teams that I went against, but just trying to be the most complete basketball player I can be which adds to our team. If I can be as complete as possible then it puts the defense in difficult decisions, depends on how they guard me and guard us.”
Teams have historically forced James to settle for jumpers given his propensity for getting to the rim and finishing through contact. The Spurs gave him fits in their Finals appearances as they dared him to shoot the ball, but it appears he has overcome that shortcoming in his game.
When James has it going from the field, he is arguably the most unguardable player in the NBA thanks to his ability to score and distribute in a multitude of ways.
It is that kind of talent and skill that has him still playing at such an elite level even in Year 17.