We can’t have a playoff without LeBron James exploding at some point. The Miami Heat needed a big night from their best player and he delivered by setting a new franchise record for postseason points in one game, leading the Miami Heat to a 102-96 win over the Brooklyn Nets and taking a 3-1 lead in the series.
Maybe it was the trash talking before and during the game from Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson. Maybe he just felt it’s time for him to put on a special kind of show – like he usually does when the Heat have needed him the most through their two title runs. James scored 49 points and seemed quite frustrated that he missed his final free throw, denying him a new career high in the playoffs and that magical number of 50. After a few minutes he realized what just happened and started smiling again.
Despite the huge game from James, who finished with 16-of-24 from the field and 14-of-19 from the line, the Nets wouldn’t go away, even taking the lead a couple of times in the fourth quarter. It was only when James surprised everyone by passing the ball from the paint to Mario Chalmers who swung it to a wide open Chris Bosh on the corner, hitting his 2nd 3-pointer of the night (he was 1-of-5 before that) that the Heat finally grabbed the lead for good with less than a minute remaining.
Miami didn’t get much from their bench (16 points, 31.2% from the field) while Bosh (12 points) and Dwyane Wade (15 points) stepped backwards and didn’t interfere with the LeBron James show. Mario Chalmers was excellent while the minutes with Norris Cole on the floor were a big problem, which has been an issue all year. Eventually, it came down to making the right plays on both sides of the ball, and James, along with significant help, prevailed.
The difference for the Nets compared to game 3 which they won by 14 points? Their 3-point shooting. They weren’t allowed to get into transition as much on account of the Heat shooting so well and turning the ball over only 8 times, leading to 5-of-22 from beyond the arc. Paul Pierce scored 16 points but was 0-for-4 from deep and Joe Johnson had a rough night with 5-of-15 from the field. Mirza Teletovic, the man for special assignments, was ice cold from long range. Kevin Garnett can’t last too long on the floor and Deron Williams struggled again.
The Nets don’t mind the Heat trying to do everything through James, who had 89 touches on the ball compared to an average of 56 through the first three games. But that theory folds when he has a huge night, averaging 1.44 points per play (1.16 average before) and shoots an effective field goal percentage of 72.9%. The Nets were struggling all through the fourth quarter, shooting an effective field goal percentage of 28.6% compared to 53.5% in the first three quarters.
The series isn’t over, but the Nets need more than 3-point shooting to make this one swing back their way. Maybe trash talking when you’re actually good enough to back it up works, but Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce helping this series become testier than it should certainly didn’t help. The Miami Heat are in control, and now that James has the huge performance out of the way, we might see a much better all-around performance from the Heat in what might be the series clincher.