LeBron James is a bad, bad man.
There were moments during last night’s 100-96 Miami Heat win over the Cleveland Cavaliers that bordered on the surreal, even more so than the other regular occurrences of LeBron making every shot within the zip code.
The Heat yielded 25 points to the 25th-ranked offense of Cleveland in the first quarter, yet were up by 12 because of how prolific and devastating a player LeBron can be. For one last time this season, he wanted to show his former fanbase, owner, teammates and coaches what they were missing out on.
We just didn’t knew he’d be this cruel about it. We thought his 38-point drubbing of Cleveland in his initial return back in 2010 was something special, but what we got last night out of the four-time MVP was something out of a Lovecraft novel.
You could see what was happening unfolding before you, yet you couldn’t believe it actually was transpiring. Once LeBron banked in an elbow three-pointer (I still can’t tell if it was on purpose or not, although I lean towards the former), you knew it was going to be a night worth of a highlight video by the time you woke up the next morning.
LeBron was 10-11 in the first quarter alone and finished with 43 points on only 19 shots, yet the Heat were still locked in an intense battle with a Cleveland team that was playing without Kyrie Irving and Luol Deng. Because those two were out, the Cavs played a more team-oriented ball, moving the ball and getting open shots, resulting in nearly 60 percent shooting by the end of the third quarter for a team that ranks at the bottom in field goal percentage.
In a tie game going into the fourth, it wasn’t LeBron, who scored a combined 18 points over the final three quarters on account of the double and triple teams Cleveland was throwing at him, who saved the day, but Chris Bosh.
After a quiet start to the game, Bosh scored 11 of his 21 points on the night in the fourth quarter, a frame where Miami finally got its defensive bearings together and held Cleveland to 17 points.
If not for a pair of wild Jarrett Jack three-pointers that, naturally, fell in the waning seconds, Cleveland could have been held below 15 points in the final frame.
But Bosh was his usual clutch, efficient self. He broke an 88-all tie with 3:43 left when he nailed his second three-pointer of the night and then calmly hit a 13-foot floater on the baseline with 2:21 left to give Miami a five-point lead.
It would be free throws and defensive stops the rest of the way, as Miami would end up pulling away thanks to 6-for-6 free throw shooting in the final 1:06 from LeBron, as well as devastating blocks at the rim from LeBron, Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem.
Yeah, Udonis Haslem. Never thought you’d expect that name, right? Well, he played a vital role in this game, providing the Heat with an energy that was needed to wake up a team that was in its usual Why-don’t-the-playoffs-just-start-already malaise.
Haslem only needed eight minutes to secure six rebounds and was a plus-8.
LeBron James: 43 points (14-19 overall, 6-8 from three, 9-13 on free throws), 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks, 2 steals, 0 turnovers; A
Simply unbelievable. I know we use that word all too often to describe the feats pulled off by LeBron James, but that first quarter was one of the finest shooting exhibitions the NBA has seen in a long time. He missed only one shot in the first frame, a transition three-pointer from about 30 feet that rimmed out, and Cleveland needed to throw multiple defenders at him the rest of the game.
After starting out the game missing four of his five free throws in the first half, he proceeded to hit all eight of his free throws, including a critical six in the final minute to keep Cleveland disappointed, in the second half.
Even more impressive than his shooting, however, was his passing (a no-look wraparound pass to a wide-open Ray Allen that was alien and not of this planet) and defense (a meeting at the summit that denied a Spencer Hawes dunk that would have trimmed Miami’s lead to one with two minutes left).
Oh, and he somehow finished with zero turnovers in 42 minutes.
Chris Bosh: 21 points (8-16 overall, 2-5 from three, 3-4 on free throws), 6 rebounds, 1 block, 1 assist; A-
There are times where Chris Bosh looks like a shooting guard. This was one of those games, as he showcased his usual repertoire of three-pointers and mid-range looks, but also sprinkled in some floaters and pull-up jumpers that had Dwyane Wade written all over them.
He also had a huge block on a Dion Waiters layup in the final frame, one of three blocks Miami had late in the game that stifled Cleveland’s attempts at a comeback.
Counting the tie-breaking three-pointer he had last night, Bosh is now 12-for-21 on threes on clutch three-pointers, per John Schuhmann.
Udonis Haslem: 0 points, 6 rebounds; A
It certainly isn’t an attractive or robust statline, but it’s exactly what you want from Udonis Haslem whenever he does see the floor. He provided energy and hustle that was non-existent, played in the final minutes, and was extremely aggressive going after boards in a game where Miami was being outrebounded and outworked on the glass.
Let’s just say he was doing things that Evan Turner is not capable of.
With the team needing any defensive energy it can get, considering the team ranks 12th in defensive efficiency this year, Haslem could find himself playing a critical role down the stretch and possibly in the playoffs.
Greg Oden: 6 points (3-6), 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks; B
I thought Joel Anthony was a limited offensive player, until I witnessed Greg Oden. This guy is as inept on offense as you’ll see from any other NBA player. We can chalk it up to four years of not playing an NBA game, because watching Oden brick jump hooks is brutal.
But he has no problem dunking that’s for sure. He and Toney Douglas connected on a pair of rim-shattering dunks, while Oden did his damage on the defensive end, blocking the dunk attempt of Dion Waiters and then repelling him again later on with a video game block that ricocheted off the backboard and initiated a fastbreak.
Miami plays at Boston Wednesday night to finish off a back-to-back. It’s sure to be entertaining, infuriating, and satisfying all at the same time, like most Heat games have been this year.