LeBron James scored a season-low 13 points on 10 shots against the Indiana Pacers Sunday night.
What’s your initial response to that? Did he get hurt? Was the Pacers defense so stingy that LeBron flat out refused to shoot it? If he was that passive, who could have filled in his shoes to make the game respectable?
The reigning MVP’s impact on offense wasn’t up its usual standards. But the Miami Heat don’t compete for championships by heavily relying on LeBron. Only elite rosters can make it to back-to-back NBA championships.
It also takes an elite roster to knock around the Pacers as the Miami Heat did in their 105-90 win. James may have only gone for 13 points, along with seven rebounds and six assists, but he was only the fourth leading scorer for a Miami team that wasn’t only trying to win its 18th consecutive game.
Get this. Mario Chalmers led the way in scoring. Seriously. For the second time this year, the other time being when he dropped 34 on Sacramento, Chalmers led the Heat in scoring.
Mario was hot from the start before finishing with 26 points on nine shots. He converted 5-of-6 from beyond the arc and made all seven of his free throws. It was yet another occurrence of Chalmers playing big in a big game.
You may remember Mario scoring a then season-high 23 in a close win at home against Oklahoma City. He is still riding the high off of the tying shot he had in the national championship against Derrick Rose’s Memphis.
He wasn’t the only who had it going on from the perimeter. Chris Bosh converted all six of his field-goals in the second half, finishing 11-of-15 for the night and ending with a huge 24 points.
Bosh’s aggression was apparent from the start. He was taking and making jumpers without hesitation, beating Roy Hibbert off the dribble time-and-time again, and staving off every comeback bid the Pacers had in them in the fourth quarter.
Most importantly, and the entire team can be praised for it, Roy Hibbert was kept off the boards and held to only four rebounds. Indiana attempted to establish him early, but Miami quickly adjusted and kept Hibbert’s touches to a minimum.
After beating the Heat on the boards by at least 20 in both meetings, Indiana could only manage a 33-28, 6-4 on the offensive glass, rebounding advantage. No player on the Pacers had more than six rebounds.
Chalmers led all rebounders with seven. Yeah.
Chalmers’ backcourt sidekick Dwyane Wade, at least for tonight, also had it going. Not only did he help play a large role in the emasculation of Paul George, with help rom LeBron and Ray Allen, he continued his recent torrid pace of Vintage D-Wade.
He ended with 23 points and six steals, including back-to-back steals that incited a technical foul from Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel, who couldn’t find the proper words to react to his team’s demise.
Indiana made 10 three-pointers and took 34 free throws, 11 alone from David West, but only 63 possessions and 16 turnovers isn’t going to beat the Heat with the way they’ve been playing.
Meanwhile, the Heat shot 56 percent from the field and 50 percent on 14 three-point attempts. That’s occurring against arguably the league’s top defense.
This game didn’t have the feel of an average regular season game. The Heat weren’t planning on sleepwalking as they’ve done the past few weeks against the likes of Sacramento, Cleveland, and Orlando.
This was personal. The Heat have been on a revenge tour over the course of this streak. The latest stop on the tour were the Pacers, one of only two teams to defeat the Heat twice this year.
The New York Knicks were the other. But the Pacers were different. The Knicks had beaten the Heat with three-point shooting that doesn’t last in the playoffs.
The Pacers were beating the Heat with their inside game, and that’s something Miami has never had a true answer for, outside of putting in perimeter players.
In the first two meetings this year, the Pacers dominated on the glass and were supported by domineering presences in Roy Hibbert and David West. George has been especially superb, scoring 28 points in the first meeting, and keeping LeBron in check as much as anybody could.
George didn’t have that much of an affect on offense tonight. He scored 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting and turned the ball over five times, while also becoming the latest victim of a LeBron chasedown block.
It’s another drop in the bucket for the Heat. The 18-game winning streak is now the longest by any NBA team this season, besting a 17-game streak set by the Los Angeles Clippers earlier in the year.
What makes the Heat’s winning streak as impressive as any in recent memory is the quality of the opponents they’re beating. In the past week alone, they’ve defeated the Pacers and the Knicks, which was a road meeting.
The Memphis Grizzlies, Houston Rockets, L.A. Clippers, and L.A. Lakers are only the teams the Heat have defeated at home. Miami has also gone on the road and defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, Chicago Bulls, and Atlanta Hawks.
And they still had the time to give the masses their fill of intense games against weaker opponents, including a 141-129 double-overtime thriller with the Sacramento Kings.
In my years of watching Heat basketball, I’ve never heard a Heat crowd that audible and raucous on a Tuesday night against the Western Conference’s worst team.
Can you blame the fans? They’re watching history. History that could become almost unprecedented in the modern era. This is the longest streak since the 2008-’09 Boston Celtics won 19 consecutive games.
Shane Battier was a member of the Houston Rockets team that won 22 consecutive games in 2008. The longest streak overall was a 33-game runoff by the 1972 Los Angeles Lakers.
Miami still has a ways to go before they begin thinking about 34-game winning streaks. Like winning a championship. For now they’ll turn their attention towards playing the Atlanta Hawks, a team they’ve already defeated three times this year, at the American Airlines Arena this Tuesday.