LeBron James Doesn't Attempt Free Throw in Game for 1st Time Since 2009

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistMarch 9, 2014

Feb 20, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) attempts a free throw shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since scoring 61 points against the Charlotte Bobcats on March 3, LeBron James has hit a bit of a rough patch. 

Over his last three games (all Heat losses), James is averaging 19.3 points on 39 percent shooting, but he hit a new low during Sunday's 95-88 loss to the Chicago Bulls

However, Sunday's outing marked a strange new low for James. According to the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson, it was the first time since 2009 that LeBron didn't make a single trip to the charity stripe: 

Unable to solve the Bulls' vaunted defense, James was tasked with settling for jumpers more often than not, which appears to have become a trend this season when matched up against the league's second-most efficient defense: 

In 45 minutes, James converted on a meager eight of his 23 field-goal attempts and finished with 17 points to go with nine rebounds and eight assists.

“I dropped the ball,” James said, according to Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald. “That’s a double-entendre, right? A actually dropped the ball, but I also dropped the ball on my team.”

CBS Sports' Matt Moore broke down just how the Bulls were able to slow down LeBron, noting that Tom Thibodeau's tactics played a big part in frustrating the league's third-leading scorer: 

James usually obliterates smaller guards like Butler in the post. But a combination of the Bulls' superb help schemes, Butler's fast, active hands, and the fact that Butler's size works to his advantage negated James' ability. James suffers in matchups against guards of exactly Butler's size because if James drops his shoulder and Butler flops, he'll rack up calls. The foul calls usually wind up swinging against James, and he can't afford to pick up extra ones.

And while he was able to get into the paint on a number of occasions, James' shot chart indicates that Jimmy Butler forced him to play beyond the free-throw line, attempting eight shots (and making just one) outside of 15 feet. 

On the season, only 16.8 percent of James' shots are coming between 16 feet and the three-point line, per Basketball-Reference, and the league's reigning MVP is converting on 38.9 percent of those looks. 

It may have been one of James' most underwhelming performances of the season to date, but it's pretty remarkable that such a mundane showing nearly resulted in a triple-double. 

Now whether this slump persists throughout the month of March remains to be seen, but there's no doubt that James has a nice shot at busting it in the coming days. 

After squaring off against the Washington Wizards' 10th-ranked defense on Monday, James and the Heat will get a shot at a Brooklyn Nets defense that's surrendering 107 points per 100 possessions before a showdown with Brian Shaw's Denver Nuggets

Entering Sunday night, the Nuggets rank 28th in terms of opponents' points per game and No. 21 overall when it comes to defensive efficiency. 

With two porous defenses on the horizon, James has to be salivating at the chance to show that this little rut is nothing but a fluke. 

All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless noted otherwise. 

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