With the time to pick up their game and start playing championship-like basketball, the Miami Heat pulled off a close 93-91 win over the Portland Trail Blazers that included some LeBron James heroics and acrobatics, including the game winning layup, followed by Chris Bosh with a huge block on Damian Lillard to seal the victory.
James has struggled, or simply taken a step backwards in terms of forcing himself on games, since his performance against the Charlotte Bobcats. But with Dwyane Wade out resting again, Chris Bosh saying they’ve “sucked” recently and overall losing 7 of their last 11 going into the game, James did what he had to do.
He finished with 32 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals in probably his best game since that impressive shooting night against Charlotte. High flying dunks in the first half, and once again aggressiveness when the Heat needed him the most in the second half.
Miami already had a 89-78 lead late in the fourth, but the usual stagnation on offense and a couple of wild three’s from Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews led to a tied game. So James found himself guarded by Damian Lillard (why Lillard?!), and the support of Robin Lopez in the paint wasn’t enough. James did what he doesn’t do enough – drive to the basket instead of settling for jumpers or dribbling out the clock, and put the Heat in the lead.
Lillard did the same thing on the other end, only Chris Bosh is a much better blocker than Robin Lopez. He was there for the clean block as Lillard got into the paint, and the Heat got a win that might be a close one, but something that can mean a lot to a struggling side, looking for some consistency and inspiration.
Greg Oden played against his former team, which probably would have meant more in Portland. He played 15 minutes in the stating lineup, finishing with 4 points and 3 rebounds, showing once again his dunking ability. The Heat finally won a rebounding battle, led by Chris Andersen with 11 (including five on offense), and having Oden on the floor makes them a lot harder to dominate against in the paint.
Portland looked bad on both ends of the floor and somehow almost came away with the game. Damian Lillard did score 19 points but was only 3-of-15 from the field. Wesley Matthews added 15 points and Nicolas Batum finished with 11, but at 37.8% from the field, it was only some wild three pointers and the usual unexplained drop from the Heat offensively that brought them back within touching distance of a win or at least overtime.
He may not like being in this position, but James needs to start looking at Kevin Durant and emulating. The Miami Heat need him to take over games more often, instead of letting it come to him and stroll in the meanwhile. A healthy Wade might change that, and if the team was built on going to Chris Bosh a little bit more James might have been able to escape the responsibility, but the 2014 version of the Miami Heat depends on his ability more than ever, which is something he must realize, grasp and accept.