You could find no better example of how a great player can impact a game when having an off night than Miami’s game against Memphis Friday night.
After being named the NBA’s Eastern Conference Player of the Month for the fourth time this season earlier in the day, the Heat’s LeBron James struggled for three quarters while taking on double and triple teams from the Grizzlies.
He went into the fourth quarter with only four points, having made only one of his seven field goal attempts. Included in the six misses were a couple of missed layups. He also missed one of his two free throws.
The Heat led by only a point, and their winning streak seemed tenuous at best, especially when James started off the final period by missing one of two free throws and a pair of 20-foot jumpers.
But over the last nine minutes, James became the King again and the Heat won their 13th in a row, 98-91.
A dunk off a feed from Norris Cole seemed to jumpstart his game, and he hit a big 3-pointer off a pass from Dwyane Wade that turned a one-point lead into four at 93-89 with 24.2 seconds left.
“I felt if he kicked it to me, which D Wade usually does, I’m taking it,” James said. “I’m confident I’m making it.”
Down the stretch James made three of his seven shots from the floor and six of his last eight free throws. Still, his overall stats (4 of 14 shooting) were a far cry from what he had done during February, when he shot 64.1 percent from the field for the month.
“I just felt out of rhythm, when you’re not making shots you’ve been making all year,” he said. “But you don’t get discouraged. When I don’t make snots, I know I can do other things to help our team win. That never really bothered me my bad shooting nights.”
Despite those struggles, he finished with a stat line that included 18 points and 10 assists and was just two rebounds short of what would have been the 35th triple-double of his career. He also had two steals and a blocked shot.
“Tonight he didn’t have it going offensively,” Wade said. “But he had trust in his guys and he didn’t force up 20-odd shots. He played the pass and was still aggressive.
“We’ll take it. We’ll take those kind of numbers and us getting a win.”