Somehow, the Miami Heat really made things complicated for themselves against a team they should have an easier time beating. So LeBron James stopped trying to make tough contested shots from long range, and settled for a layup he easily made to give the Heat a dramatic win, extending their win-streak to 16 games.
I had no intention of shooting another jumper. About 90 seconds prior to his game winning basket (97-96) over the Orlando Magic, James took two 25-foot three point attempts in the same attack, as Shane Battier grabbed the offensive rebound off of his first attempt. James has been doing so well this season (56.2% from the field) because of his shot selection and reducing even further that tendency to force tough shots happen. Against the Magic, as the Heat were down by three, it almost cost them the game.
On Orlando’s side, I don’t think they were talking about how Dequan Cook failed to stop James on his way to the game winning basket, or even Nikola Vucevic having his second 20-20 (25 points, 21 rebounds) against the Heat this season. They were probably talking about the referees, and the fact that they were called for almost double the amount of fouls the Heat were.
After James missed his two three pointers, Tobias Harris drove to the basket and made the shot, only to be called for the charging foul and leave the game with a sixth. That basket would have given Orlando a 98-93 lead. The Heat then struggled on the next possession, with Wade and Allen missing three point shots. Nikola Vucevic was also called for his sixth foul, a loose ball foul on Chris Bosh, who made both free throws, setting up the scenario for James’ winning shot.
It was James’ first game-winning basket in the final five seconds of a game since a 3-pointer beat the Magic in the 2009 playoffs. Orlando, despite their 17-45 record, have given the Heat quite a lot to think about in their two games so far this season, losing by a combined three points on both games.
Dwyane Wade, as usual, was quite efficient as LeBron James’ wingman, scoring 24 points on 10-16 from the field, and unlike James, knew not to take shots he shouldn’t be. LeBron finished with only 1-6 from beyond the arc, as the Miami Heat posted the kind of numbers that don’t usually win games – they shot only 43.2% from the field, making 21.4% of their three point attempts. They were also outrebounded by the Magic 45-33, allowing 15 offensive rebounds.
Sometimes it’s simply about making the final play, as James clearly did, with 3.2 seconds left. Aaron Afflalo tried a 40-foot heave, but that didn’t really have a shot of going in, and the Heat stay on course with their impressive winning streak, two wins away from owning the longest of the season by any team, beating the Clippers’ 17. Another impressive record that was extended on the day was LeBron James reaching double figures for his 200th consecutive game with the team, extending his franchise record. The last time James scored less than 10 points was on January 5, 2007, one of only 8 games in his career ending in single-digit scoring.