For all the abuse Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson took for the intercepted slant pass to lose the Super Bowl, LeBron James’ 21-foot fade away miss at the end of regulation was worse.
It could well have cost Cleveland Game 1 of the NBA Playoffs.
This Breitbart Sports graph of LeBron’s shooting percentage over the last five years estimates that he hits less than 40% of his 21-footers:
|FG Distance||FG% est|
This table is based on graphing lines between the ranges shown at Basketball-Reference. In fact, that 39.7% is incredibly generous, since LeBron has hit less than 18% of his three-pointers this playoffs (compared to 36.6% over five years), so his chances just three feet closer don’t appear great.
In fact, by my unofficial tally, Thursday night LeBron went:
10 of 14 from 10 feet or closer
6 of 15 from 11 to 20 feet
2 of 9 from 20 feet or more.
So on all counts LeBron looks more like a 25% shooter from 21 feet away—so a one in four chance of hitting the game winner on a 21-footer.
The Cavs had the full 24-second clock for LeBron to get as close to the basket as he could, which could have given him close to 50% on the shot.
But to make matters worse, his 21-foot fade away left LeBron almost no chance of inducing a foul.
LeBron gets fouled about one in six times, so if he had attempted to move closer to the basket we would expect an even higher percentage.
Since the score was 98-98, the Cavs needed just one point. LeBron is a 75% foul shooter so if he was fouled there would have been a 94.5% chance he hits at least one of the free throws.
Add it all together, and LeBron appears to have a better than 50-50 chance of hitting the game-winning free throw or shot if he just attempts to get a bit closer to the basket.
Settling for the 21-foot fadeaway likley gave him a 25% chance.