There was nothing even remotely close about the highly anticipated game between the slumping Los Angeles Clippers and the best-in-the-East Miami Heat, as LeBron James continues, with the occasional break, to show how better he is than the rest of the NBA.
James scored 30 points, adding 5 rebounds and 6 assists as the Heat won with ease 111-89 against a team that looked like the best in the NBA over a month ago, but now have lost 8 of their last 11 games as they continue to tumble down the Western Conference, falling to a 35-17 record.
It was the 51st time sicne LeBron James joined the Heat in which he posted a 30-5-5 stat line or better, which is more than the two players behind him (Kevin Durant & Kobe Bryant) have combined during that time-span It was also one of those nights when he made it look as effortless as always.
According to Dwyane Wade, He’s off the planet right now. He’s not even the best basketball player on the planet. He’s surpassed the planet. He’s somewhere else. He’s playing phenomenal.
James went 9-11 from the field, including 4-5 from beyond the arc and 8-11 from the line. It was only the 13th time in the last 10 years that a player reached at least 30 points while taking 11 shots or less from the field. The last time this happened was in the 2010-2011 season, when Danilo Gallinari was still playing for the New York Knicks, scoring 31 thanks to a 13-13 night from the free throw line.
James is shooting an incredible 65.9% from the field over his last six games, which is usually the kind of numbers you see, if at all, from big men who don’t take too many chances in the paints, living on put-backs and dunks. James has turned his game into a more inside oriented one, and his decision making and shot selection has changed along with it, trying less and less to impress with tough, forced jumpers. Still, the Heat didn’t do much in the paint, scoring only 24 points from there. The Clippers simply couldn’t keep up (turning the ball over 18 times), and gave up way too soon.
There are quite a few questions about the Heat this season. It’s hard to tell if they’re really showing signs of weakness after winning the NBA title last season, or is this part of the plan, and they’ll turn it back on when they have to. Remember, the Heat haven’t finished on top of the East since the arrival of James and Bosh. They surprised many by having their way with the Chicago Bulls in the 2011 Eastern Finals, winning four straight games after dropping the opener, losing by 20 points.
Last year things weren’t that different. The absence of Bosh almost cost them the series against the Pacers (semifinal), but LeBron James and Dwyane Wade put in uber-human efforts to take them through. They were facing elimination against the Celtics, but a huge LeBron James game, along with Chris Bosh returning, put them out of harm’s way once again. They lost the opener in the finals, but continued to dominate and win in five games.
Champions believe in their ability to pick their battles, not making too much of irrelevant regular season losses. As long as they keep their 1st spot in the East with a few deceleration wins (like this one against the Clippers, or on the road at the Lakers not too long ago) thrown in the mix, the Heat are fine with the way the regular season is going.