Nuisances add up for LeBron James

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SAN ANTONIO -- It was understood -- expected, actually -- that the week would go downhill for LeBron James from the moment he scored a career-high 61 points against Charlotte the other night.

But not even James could have imaged the drop-off since Monday would be this frustrating and steep.

In other words, where are those Bobcats when you need them?

The San Antonio Spurs certainly weren't as accommodating in their approach to defending James on the way to smothering the Heat in a 111-87 victory in a matchup of teams that met in the Finals last season.

James missed 12 of his 18 shots and had five turnovers in the Heat's most lopsided loss of the season. That effort Thursday came on the heels of Tuesday's 106-103 loss in Houston, where James missed a shot that would have forced overtime to cap a fourth quarter in which he was held scoreless.

As James sat in his locker after Thursday's loss, he pointed out of number of nuisances that aggravated him throughout the game against the Spurs.

First, there was the mask.

James had grown so frustrated with the mask he had worn to protect his broken nose the past week that he tossed it aside in the first quarter Thursday and played the rest of the game without it.

Then, there was San Antonio's defense.

Using the same schemes that gave James problems through the first five games of the Finals last season, the Spurs backed off James on the perimeter and clogged the lane to keep him from getting clean drives to the basket. James eventually played his way into a rhythm last June over the final two games and guided the Heat to a Game 7 victory to secure their second consecutive championship.

But this was a one-and-done night in the regular season, and once James missed five of his first six shots in the first quarter, he never established much of a flow offensively to emerge from his funk.

Yet there was a bigger headache for James than the Spurs defense or the nagging mask.

It was the promotional sleeved jerseys.

James despised the tight-fitting, sleeved jerseys the NBA has required teams to wear on occasion this season. And James insisted after the game that the snug fit around his shoulders was uncomfortable to the point that the shirt tugged on his arm and affected his shot.

Seriously.

"I'm not going to make any excuses, but I'm not a big fan of these jerseys," James said. "So I have to figure something out the next time I have to wear a short-sleeved jersey. Every time I shoot, it feels like it's just pulling right underneath my arm. I already don't have much room for error on my jump shot anyway, so it's definitely not a good thing."

Unprompted, James then rattled off some shooting statistics from two other times when he had to play in the sleeved jerseys this season. The first instance came in the Heat's 101-95 win on Christmas Day against the Los Angeles Lakers. James shot 7-of-14 from the field and scored 19 points but missed all four of his 3-point attempts and four of his nine free throws.

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