Some things stick to you, and it’s hard to get rid of them. LeBron James and clutch ability is always going to be an issue, because of the unreasonable expectations from him. With the Miami Heat facing a third consecutive loss, it was the MVP, with another impressive performance, along with the other stars, that bailed them out.
You’re not supposed to win NBA games when you lose the rebounding battle by 12, and allow 18 offensive boards for your opponents. The Orlando Magic, 12-19, got a rare night from Nikola Vucevic who scored 20 points and grabbed 29 rebounds, in the 22 year-old’s finest performance in his short career thus far.
The problems on the boards created other problems for the Heat, as they allowed J.J. Reddick to score 23 points, including 5-9 from beyond the arc. The Heat’s defensive problems were there as usual, but their inability to deny second chances and keep Vucevic from crashing the boards again and again was what stood out, not their bad rotation or slow leg movement.
Still, what decided the game eventually was the Heat’s offense, and Dwyane Wade stealing the ball for a dunk that gave Miami enough of a cushion in the final second to come up with the 112-110 win.
Once again, LeBron James was way ahead of his teammates, way ahead of the field. For the 29th consecutive time, starting with the beginning of the season, LeBron James scored over 20 points in a game. Only George Gervin (45 games in 1981-82) has a longer streak to start the season since the NBA/ABA merger in 1976. Kevin Mchale had a streak of 28 games in the 1986-1987 season, Karl Malone had a streak of 24 games in the 1989-1990 season.
As always with James, it wasn’t all about the points. He finished with a game high 36, improving to 26.3 this season, but did a huge job from the line, making 15 of his 16 free throws, including 4-4 in overtime, scoring ten of the Heat’s 13 points in overtime.
This time, there was more than one guy to support him. Dwyane Wade was having an awful day from the line (3-10, while the rest of the Heat shot 92%), but he did finish with 21 points, 6 rebounds and the crucial steal that made it a two possession game with 6.2 second left to play. Chris Bosh, who was destroyed in the paint by Vucevic, grabbed only 4 rebounds, but enjoyed a soft Orlando defense, helping him score 22 points while shooting 10-15 from the field.
Most importantly? Ray Allen finally had a big game. Allen scored 17 points, his best scoring game in December, averaging only 9.5 points while shooting 43.9% from the field throughout the month. He was 6-9, including 3-4 from beyond the arc, on the last day of 2012.
While the Heat don’t need all four to combine for nearly 100 points each game in order to win, they do need LeBron James to get more support offensively in order to keep games a lot easier than they have been over the past week, not to mention avoid losing. Ray Allen provides that fourth option, the guy who is a guaranteed basket off a double team assist. If he’s back to his shooting form and gotten over his December slump, the Heat can start piling up wins again and strictly worry about their up & down defense.