LeBron James didn’t need to be half as good as he can be against the Charlotte Bobcats, despite Dwyane not playing for the third time in two weeks. James finished with 19 points as the Heat bounced back from their crushing overtime loss in Chicago, easily dispatching of the worst team in the NBA 105-82.
How much can you learn about the Miami Heat’s chances in the post season from facing from a team on its way to set a new record for fewest wins in an NBA season. It’s a 66 game season, but still, few would argue that Michael Jordan’s Bobcats are historically bad. Even without Dwayne Wade, it was hardly a contest.
But the Heat don’t struggle when Wade doesn’t play. They’re 11-1 without the main piece left from the Heat’s 2006 NBA championship, going through what should be described as a warning season for Wade, alerting that the decline from superstardom is on its way. If there was some question about whose team is it, there’s no doubt this season. LeBron James is the Heat’s, and probably the league’s MVP.
But this game did give Spoelstra more to think about. With Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller both out, James Jones got more minutes than usual, a player many think deserves a bigger role in the team’s rotation. He hit two three pointers, finishing with six points. He was the only Heat player to hit from beyond the arc, as the team went 2-14 on the night.
The Bobcats put no effort once Miami got off to a 22-9 run in the first quarter. Miami scored 70 points in the paint, with rare contributions from their centers. Joel Anthony, getting the start, finished with 10 points, while Dexter Pittman managed 16 in 18 minutes.
Will this be the year James managed to find it within him to take the next, final step? He’s carried teams on his back before. But as the Bulls game proved, even if the Big three manage to all have meaningful contributions, it won’t be enough. Not against the good teams and contenders. Not the Bulls, not the Thunder, maybe not even the Celtics, although I don’t believe Boston, lacking the needed consistency, will be the one to deny a Bulls – Heat Eastern Finals.