Even the wins are becoming agonizing to endure.
Miami may have pulled out a 91-86 win over a hot Memphis Grizzlies team, but it was not without a disconcerting effort for the first 45 minutes. Marc Gasol, who had 14 points and 6 rebounds in 24 minutes, also aided in the Heat’s cause, exiting the game midway through the third with what seemed to be a twisted ankle.
It still didn’t make it any easier for Miami. While Ray Allen continued to show that he’s the only player currently in playoff form, the ‘Big Three’ all faced their own share of a concerted struggle, finishing with a combined 40 points on 40 points.
Allen led the Heat in scoring with 18 points and was his usual helpful self in the fourth quarter. He hit a needed three-pointer midway through the fourth with the Heat facing a seven-point deficit, and later on got free for a two-handed dunk that gave the Heat a four-point lead with 14 seconds left.
LeBron James turned out to be the hero, despite an overall forgettable effort for most of the night. Five of his 15 points on the night came in the final 2:21, helping to end the game on a 14-2 run after a Courtney Lee jumper put Memphis up seven with 4:07 left.
After Ray came back to hit a three, the two teams exchanged misses and fouls, before LeBron hit a driving layup–by far his easiest look of the night–to cut the deficit to two.
A Grizzlies turnover then led to Dwyane Wade making a short jumper to tie it at 84 apiece. The suffocating defense then transitioned to the next defensive possession, forcing a turnover by Zach Randolph that led to the Heat having fastbreak numbers and Wade getting two more free throws, which he’d convert.
On his return to Miami for the first time this year, Mike Miller was long on a jumper that would have given Memphis the lead with 51 seconds left. Randolph was unable to corral the rebound and the ball found itself in the hands of LeBron, who had struggled with his jumper all night.
But LeBron certainly wasn’t devoid of confidence. He was taking jumpers throughout the night, continually until one eventually fell early in the fourth. That shot may have given himself the confidence needed to hit a shot like the one he’d hit with 24 seconds left to put Miami up four.
An easy Mike Conley, Jr. layup cut the Heat lead to two (the first Memphis point in nearly four minutes), but a defensive mixup out of a timeout by Memphis allowed Ray Allen to get open for a wide-open dunk.
Conley then missed a three on the other end to seal it.
Miami exerted more energy in the final three minutes than they did in the entire game leading up to it. They were down by as much as 12 points late in the third, scored only 15 points in the first quarter and gave up 15 offensive rebounds.
LeBron James didn’t reach double-digits in the scoring column until the 10:57 mark of the fourth. He was largely disinterested in attempting to break down the Grizzlies’ offense, settled on mid-range jumpers and played the role of facilitator.
LeBron James: 15 points (7-14 overall, 0-2 on threes, 1-2 on free throws), 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block, 3 turnovers; B-
He gets a pass because he came up huge in the fourth, scoring nearly half of his in the final frame. He also held Tayshaun Prince scoreless, although he didn’t appear too interested to score. Still, it was off-putting to see LeBron passive again. He couldn’t figure out Memphis’s defense and took the first three quarters off. Let the two free throw attempts tell you how aggressive LeBron was tonight.
Dwyane Wade: 14 points (5-11 overall, 4-4 on free throws), 4 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 turnovers; C+
Like LeBron, Dwyane appeared lethargic and disinterested for the most part. He had only six points when he checked in with 9:35 left in the fourth, but, like LeBron, he came alive to have a big fourth. He nailed back-to-back jumpers on his first two possessions in, and came back later on to hit the game-tying putback layup and then a pair of free throws to break that tie.
Chris Bosh: 11 points (4-15 overall, 1-6 from three, 2-2 on free throws), 5 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, 4 turnovers; D+
It was not a night to remember for Chris. He was off all night with his jump shot, from mid-range and beyond the arc, and didn’t alleviate the pain by driving, instead continuing to take long-distance jumpers that weren’t falling. He did little to negate that on the defensive end, allowing Zach Randolph (25 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists) to single-handily support Memphis after the departure of Marc Gasol.