LeBron James almost didn’t play, if the talk about his chest cold were true. He did miss the morning shoot-around, but there was nothing offbeat about his performance against the Lakers later on, scoring 31 points and leading the Miami Heat to a 98-87 win over the hot-at-home cold-on-the-road Lakers.
Dwyane Wade? Ankle problems kept him out of this one as well, but the Heat didn’t look like they were missing anything. Shane Battier as a starter? Great idea, keeping Kobe Bryant far from his usual form. Bryant took 21 shots as bad shooting days never deterred him from taking bad shots, and finished with 24 points, that came mostly when it didn’t really matter.
Same for Gasol, who did finish with a very quiet 26 points, as both him and Andrew Bynum failed to make an impact in the paint. You don’t need big names for you big men in order to have a great interior defense.
James? He was everywhere, especially in the second quarter when the Heat made their big break. James finished with 8 rebounds, 8 assists, some of them very impressive, 4 steals and 3 blocks, including one of those notorious chase downs, this time punishing Matt Barnes.
Outside shooting was also there for the Heat, making 9-18 from outside the arc, with LeBron James hitting two. He has hardly been shooting from long range this season, trying to show he’s a changed player this season, being more aggressive, trying to improve and dominate with his back to the basket as well.
That’s all nice and well, but LeBron’s, and the Heat’s for that matter, big advantage over every team in the league is their transition game and defense. When teams can’t keep up with them, the game is over much earlier than the fourth quarter.
Eddy Curry played his first game in over two years, doing a pretty decent job with his new, lighter frame. Curry finished with six points and three rebounds, giving the Heat another big man for their committee on a team that looks plenty of times much better without an actual center on the court, with Bosh playing the part instead.
Mike Brown was coaching his first game against LeBron James, a player, according to Brown, who has a lot to do with the fact that he got to coach the Lakers. Watching from the side, seeing Kobe Bryant do his thing and LeBron James do everything (leading the Heat in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals on the night), I’m pretty sure he was wishing he could reunite with his former Cavs player.
Until the Lakers start winning on the road, and Kobe Bryant makes at least a minor change in his game, I don’t think the Lakers are a serious threat to win the West. The Miami Heat (10-4) are just fine, with fourth quarter problems, when reached in tight situations, still looking to be solved. The problem for others teams is that the Heat seem to finish the games much earlier as long as LeBron James keeps this current form, averaging 29.9 points with 56.3% so far this season.