In the wake of LeBron James speaking about his place among the greatest players in NBA history, backing it up with a superb performance was only natural, leading the Miami Heat without Dwyane Wade to a 103-97 win over the Phoenix Suns.
James spoke about finishing his career as one of the top 4 in the history of the NBA, and also how his defensive performances over the last two years should have gotten him at least one DPOY award. Arguments aside, in his specific performance against the Suns he shows the entire arsenal of weapons, including the taking-it-easy first half until there was nothing to hold him back from unleashing his full set of skills, finishing with 37 points, 9 rebounds and 5 steals.
With Wade out with a migraine, missing his 13th game of the season, it was up to James to carry the offensive load. The Heat did a decent job in containing the Suns by playing a prevent type of defense, which led to 16 turnovers and 24 points off of them. They kept the Suns at only 30 points in the paint, but the big difference was the Heat’s offense due to their up tempo style and moving into transition instead of a halfcourt game, scoring 60 points in the second half.
James had 25 points in the second half, his best scoring 24 minutes all season long. He had 12 transition points, which included a couple of electrifying dunks, and is now averaging 6.7 transition points per game, second only to James Harden of the Houston Rockets.
It was good to see us respond and this response started yesterday in practice. There wasn’t any dancing around it, we were flat and we didn’t bring a game necessary to win on the road against Utah. Phoenix is a really good team, the surprise team of the league this year.
The Heat have done well on their Western road-trip so far, but the loss to the Jazz once again showcased their tendency to start games flat and never recover, or not have enough time to complete the comeback. The same thing happened against the Suns, but like many teams, the defense is what brought the Heat back into the game. That, and James doing anything he wanted to on the floor, which included an assist to Chris Bosh with 40 seconds left in the game as the big man nailed the 3-pointer, giving Miami a 99-92 lead to pretty much clinch the win.
Bosh scored 21 points on a very efficient 8-of-11 from the field, adding 8 rebounds. The Heat struggled with their shooting early on (only 38% in the first half) but getting easy points, finishing with 47 in the paint, through transition and fast breaks, led to a 57% shooting performance in the second half.
James might see his MVP award go to someone else this season, but that doesn’t change what he’s done over the last five years and his dominance almost every time he steps on the court. Talking about yourself and your place in history might a bit pretentious and arrogant, but it doesn’t make him wrong. His opinion of his defense might be a bit exaggerated when compared to other players but isn’t that way off the truth. However, it’s going to be in playoff series that the Heat are going to need him to bring his full set of talents to the table, backing up his words, and keeping their three-peat dream alive.