LeBron James played one of the worst postseason games of his NBA career during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals Sunday. He scored just 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting from the field in 45 minutes of action and didn’t record a single point in the fourth quarter. His poor performance helped the Celtics come back from a 21-point deficit to win 111-108 on an Avery Bradley buzzer beater, and it left LeBron feeling frustrated after the game. He took it out on a heckler and a reporter to complete his disastrous night.
But this is not the first time LeBron has come up small on the biggest stage. As his current head coach Tyronn Lue reminded everyone after the game, LeBron is "human," so he’s not immune to having a bad game every now and then, even during the playoffs when his team needs him most. And in the past, LeBron has endured his fair share of postseason struggles.
The key now will be for LeBron to refuse to allow his frustrations to get the best of him. Even though he played a historically bad game during Game 3, Game 4 of the ECF will take place in Cleveland on Tuesday night with the Cavaliers looking to make the best-of-7 series 3-1 in their favor. So LeBron will get the chance to redeem himself immediately and put Game 3 in the past. If he’s able to score 30-plus points like he did in Games 1 and 2, Game 3 will become a distant memory in the minds of NBA fans, and all the criticism LeBron is facing will fade away.
Will LeBron be able to do it? We’ll find out in about 36 hours. For now, let’s take a look back at how LeBron has responded to some of his other bad playoff performances over the years. They suggest his Game 4 performance should be a whole lot better than the one he put forth in Game 3.
Game 1 of the 2007 NBA Finals
Date: June 7, 2007
Stat line: 14 points (4-of-16-shooting), 7 rebounds, 4 assists
How did he respond in the next game? The entire Cavaliers team struggled throughout the duration of the 2007 NBA Finals. They were overmatched by a more talented and more experienced Spurs team. But after struggling in Game 1, LeBron did show signs of life in Game 2. He scored 25 points on 9-of-21 shooting while recording 7 rebounds and 6 assists in a 103-92 loss. The Cavaliers would go on to get swept 4-0 in the series.
Game 1 of the 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals
Date: May 6, 2008
Stat line: 12 points (2-of-18 shooting), 9 rebounds, 9 assists
How did he respond in the next game? LeBron managed to score 21 points in Game 2 against the Celtics while grabbing 5 rebounds and dishing out 6 assists. But his shooting percentage was still ridiculously low in the game. After shooting just 11 percent in Game 1, he shot 25 percent from the field (6-of-24) in Game 2, and the Cavaliers lost 89-73. They ended up losing the series 4-3.
Game 5 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals
Date: May 11, 2010
Stat line: 15 points (3-of-14 shooting), 6 rebounds, 7 assists
How did he respond in the next game? LeBron was criticized for looking disinterested and unenthusiastic during Game 5 of this series. He played better in Game 6, scoring 27 points on 8-of-18 shooting and recording 19 rebounds and 10 assists to finish with a triple-double. But it wasn’t enough to stop the Celtics, who won the game 94-85 and won the series 4-2 in the process. The outcome of this series ultimately led LeBron to leave the Cavaliers and lingered with him for a long time.
Game 1 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals
Date: May 15, 2011
Stat line: 15 points (5-of-15 shooting), 6 rebounds, 6 assists
How did he respond in the next game? LeBron sputtered in Game 1 of this series before he got back on track by putting up 29 points on 12-of-21 shooting and adding 10 rebounds and 5 assists in Game 2. Not surprisingly, that helped the Heat rebound from a Game 1 loss to win Game 2 85-75. Miami eventually won the series 4-1.
Game 4 of the 2011 NBA Finals
Date: June 7, 2011
Stat line: 8 points (3-of-11 shooting), 9 rebounds, 7 assists
How did he respond in the next game? LeBron was widely criticized for scoring just 8 points in Game 4 of this series. He didn’t score a single point in the fourth quarter for the first time in his playoff career and was ripped apart for coming up small in a game the Heat needed to win. And while he recorded a triple-double in Game 5 with 17 points on 8-of-19 shooting, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists, the Heat lost 112-103. They also went on to lose the series 4-2 to Dallas. This was one of the lowest points of LeBron's career.
Game 5 of the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals
Date: May 28, 2014
Stat line: 7 points (2-of-10 shooting), 2 rebounds, 4 assists
How did he respond in the next game? The 7 points LeBron scored in Game 5 of this series remains his career low for a playoff game. He picked it up in Game 6 by scoring 25 points on 8-of-12 shooting with 4 rebounds and 6 assists in a 117-92 win. It helped the Heat win the series 4-2 to advance to the NBA Finals.