For the second straight game, LeBron James let the Miami Heat handle their opponents with varying success for most of the game, before putting his struggles (and aching knee behind him) and once again having an immense fourth quarter to extend the team’s winning streak to 14, tying a franchise record.
Obviously, it’s great to win games, period. But when you’re on a win streak, you’ve got to find many different ways to win ballgames and we’ve had comebacks in the last seconds, we’ve had double-overtime games, but this was probably the most thrilling one. It was the most challenging. For a team who beat us twice, they handled us twice and they were up 16 in the first half, for us to have the resilience to come back, find a way fight out this win, it was great.
The Knicks proved to be a problem once again for the Miami Heat, after already beating them twice this season by 20 points. There were those who said that even with a huge advantage in the race for the Eastern playoffs, the Heat need to worry about meeting the Knicks. Despite the 32 points from Carmelo Anthony on a decent shooting night from him (9-19, 13-14 from the line), the 16 point lead the Knicks had wasn’t enough.
Not when LeBron James is saving his best for the final periods, as the Heat won the second half 54-34 en route to a 99-93 win, their sixth in a row on the road. James finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists, but his 12 points in the final quarter, overcoming a leg injury in the third, was all the difference. It’s been the same pattern that led the Heat to a win against the Memphis Grizzlies – James is averaging 10.5 points through the first three quarters of the last two games, shooting 39% from the field with his team losing by a total of 3 points.
In the fourth? James is averaging 13 points in the final quarter, shooting 50% from the field and outscoring the opponents by 16 points combined for both games. His motor is limitless. I don’t want to take that for granted. I don’t just want to assume that he can play 40-plus minutes, but he had to do it on both ends. Couldn’t get him out in the fourth quarter and if I would have tried, he probably would have strangled me. He was strong and was at his strongest after 40 minutes of basketball.
You can’t not mention the assisting crew. Dwyane Wade is playing some great basketball after a dodgy first month of the season, which people seem to remember way to well. He finished with 20 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists. Chris Bosh was busy closing down rebounders and finished with only 1, but the Heat didn’t struggle as in the past against the Knicks, allowing 9 offensive boards and winning the battle 41-40. Bosh scored 16 points in a tough match up for him.
The bench guy who came through was Shane Battier, scoring 12 points on a perfect 4 for 4 from beyond the arc. Battier had trouble early in the season, possibly because of the slight role changes with Ray Allen coming in to the team, but he is finding his shooting groove and defensive influence once again in the last month or so.
Nothing but good new for the Miami Heat, except for James getting slightly banged up. A franchise record is important, but not risking the best player in the NBA, with the Eastern lead not in any danger, might be a bit more important.