I guess it’s those boos that make him angry, that make him this good. With his scoring average 2.2 points higher on road games than when playing in Miami, LeBron James had another fantastic night as the Heat won their fourth game from their last five (106-85), as James reached the 17,000 points milestone, the 76th player in NBA history to reach that mark, after dropping 43 on the Hawks, including 23 in the third quarter, outscoring the entire Atlanta team 23-20.
With James playing like that (his season high is 51 against Orlando last month), even Wade and Bosh don’t need to do to much. The trio combined for 74 points, with Bosh scoring 17 and Wade 14. All three sat out in the third quarter. They got the Hawks in the perfect time, as Al Horford put it - We’re struggling right now. We’re really trying to find ourselves. … We’ve had some good times, but we’re going through a real rough patch right now.
The Heat enjoyed a night with both the Bulls (at Indiana) and the Celtics (in Houston) losing, now 0.5 a game behind Boston and 2.5 behind conference leaders Chicago. With 13 games to go, there’s still a chance for the Heat to finish first. With LeBron hitting the right gear at the right time and an April 10 home game against the Celtics to prove they can beat the C’s, it would be foolish to count the Heat out of the title race just yet. The motivation and defensive intensity seems to be re-found, and with the offense looking better the last week, the Heat are looking mighty intimidating again.
They can’t play defense this season they said. I read an article yesterday about the top 5 contenders for the NBA title this season. They didn’t put the San Antonio Spurs, the 55-13 Spurs, 5.5 games ahead in the Western conference, in the top 5. They put Dallas, a perennial underachiever, instead. The Spurs had a few days off, and their big three responded with a combined 80 points. Tony Parker led the way with 33 while Duncan added 22 and Ginobili 25. Nowitzki was the only one San Antonio let have a decent night, scoring 23.
The Spurs forced 19 turnovers, including 14 to steals as they won their 3rd straight against the Mavs. It wasn’t that the Mavs didn’t get good shots. The finished with nearly 50% from the field, much better than the Spurs. Still, San Antonio’s ability to isolate Nowitzki and leave him as the only scoring option for long stretches has to worry the Mavs. Nowitzki alone can’t take Dallas, with all of its depth and spread out talent, even a first round series by himself.
San Antonio still have problems. There were long stretches during the third and fourth when they just couldn’t get a shot to drop. Dallas have a very good defense, especially when Tyson Chandler doesn’t get into foul trouble (fouled out). The Lakers have a great defense, and more than just one reliant big man. Their trio won’t go for 75-80 every night. Duncan, especially, doesn’t have too many 20+ games in him anymore. Dejuan Blair, George Hill, Jefferson. Those are the guys who need to step up so the Spurs remember this season as more than just a great regular one.