LeBron James just loves his visits to Portland, and after scoring 38 in another Miami Heat double digit win, he has an average of 38.8 points in his last five visits to face the Blazers. Combined with Dwyane Wade’s 33, the Heat rolled to their ninth straight double digit victory, beating the Portland Trail Blazers 107-93.
Chris Bosh wasn’t present, so the Heat’s remaining big two just stepped up. James finished with 38 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and five steals, becoming the first player since individual turnovers have been recorded to finish with at least a 35-10-5-5 and no turnovers. But it wasn’t just his numbers in another MVP like performance, this time without the ass-slapping that followed like last year in the midst of all the jeers.
James guarded everyone, including Marcus Camby early on, showing just how far he’s come as a defensive player, and how much the All-Star BS hasn’t affected him. When James and Wade are this good, there’s no real need for anyone to show his crunch time skills.
Now, the Heat are one double digit win shy of tying the NBA record of 10 such wins, something which has been done three times, most recently by the Houston Rockets in the 2007-2008.
For the Blazers, who have been continuing to slip recently, it’s turned into an 18-18 season, and watching how much better the Heat were makes you think of bad luck and how LaMarcus Aldridge, as good as he is, finishing with 20 points, was a bit too soft in a game the Blazers needed extra toughness while Camby struggled to show any kind of dominance in the paint. A un-retired Brandon Roy, an un-cursed Greg Oden. Things could have been different.
But Portland’s problems of being unable to breakout of mediocrity shouldn’t trouble the Heat. They’re on a mission of winning the title, and their ability to overcome the setbacks or injuries this season, which have plagued to some degree each and every one of their three gems, just might mean they’ll be stronger come the playoffs.
They had quite a few rough patches last season, even before the fourth quarter collapses in the finals. The inability to beat the Bulls, the losing streaks mid-season seemed oh so tragic about a year ago. They aren’t happening now because the Heat learned from that, and they’re simply a better team. With Dwyane Wade back in expected form, it’s hard to argue they are the best in the league right now.