LeBron James on his growth since facing Dwane Casey in 2011 NBA Finals
It took Cleveland Cavaliers start LeBron James a long time and a lot of work to get to where he is today as the NBA’s best player and arguably the best player of all time. But before James could rise to the top of the mountain as a three-time NBA Champion and three-time NBA Finals MVP, he had to sink down to one of the lowest points in his career when his heavily favored Miami heat fell to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals.
James came into the series his usual self, averaging 26 points, 8.9 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game on 46.3 percent shooting in the 2011 Eastern Conference playoffs. In the Finals, however, James finished with very subpar averages of 17.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.8 assists on 47.8 percent shooting from the field. Back in 2011, the assistant coach charged with the task of coming up with a defensive scheme to slow down James was Dwane Casey, the current Toronto Raptors head coach.
James took a lot of criticism for not rising to the occasion in that series, and he even admitted to sitting in his room for two weeks after the loss reflecting on his performance. Ever since that series, however, James has been absolutely dominant in the playoffs and especially in the NBA Finals reaching the championship round six straight times and winning three of them.
The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Toronto Raptors in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference’s second round on Thursday night, taking a dominant 2-0 lead back home to Cleveland with a chance to sweep them. James and his Cavs have now taken on the Raptors in three straight postseason, and have won eight straight games against Canada’s lone NBA team and 10 of the last 12.
After Game 2, James was asked about how he’s developed as a player since essentially being shut down by Casey and the Mavs’ gameplan almost seven years ago.
“I wasn’t that good of a player in that series. I wasn’t a complete basketball player. Dwane Casey drew up a gameplan against me in that series in the Finals against Dallas to take away things I was very good at & to try to make me do things that I wasn’t very good at. He’s part of the reason why I am who I am today.”
LeBron James on improvement since 2011 Finals: "I wasn't that good of a player… I wasn't a complete basketball player. Dwane Casey drew up a gameplan to take away things I was good at & make me do things I wasn't very good at. He's part of the reason why I am who I am today." pic.twitter.com/lcOSKZoqpw
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) May 4, 2018
James is now an almost lock for a 30-point night in the playoffs, and he’s likely give you eight rebounds and nine assists as well. More than that, however, he’s turned into a player that actually changes what the opposition has to do many times. Even then, it doesn’t always work.
LeBron is averaging a league-high 34.4 points in the playoffs on 54.8 percent shooting. He’s also chipping in 9.9 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.0 block per game for the Cavs, who can take a 3-0 lead on the Raptors on Saturday night.