Stats & Info: Miami Heat

LeBron gets the best of the Cavs ... again

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
LeBron James was almost perfect to start Tuesday night's game against the Cavaliers.
This has been an interesting month for LeBron James from a statistical perspective. He's bookended a bit of a shooting slump with two of the best quarters in his NBA career.

James scored 25 points in the first quarter of Tuesday’s win over his former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, on 10-for-11 shooting. His 25 points matched the Cavaliers' total for the quarter and tied the franchise record for points in a quarter.

James was unable to duplicate what happened the last time he tallied 25 in a quarter (earlier this month against the Charlotte Bobcats), tallying 18 points in the next three quarters combined. His 31 points at halftime marked the first time he’s scored that many in an opening half for the Heat.

His last 30-point first half was on Feb. 6, 2010 for the Cavaliers in a 47-point effort against the Knicks.

James finished 14-for-19 from the field (73.7 percent) for 43 points. That’s the third-best he’s ever shot in a regular-season game in which he took at least that many shots. He’s twice gone 16-for-21, once in 2011 against the Atlanta Hawks and once in 2012 against the Milwaukee Bucks.

It’s also the most points he’s ever scored in 13 games against his former team.

The key for James was that he was able to make his shots from 3-point range. LeBron entered the night six for his past 24 from 3-point range, but was 6-for-8 in this one.

It was the second-best he’s ever shot from long range in a game in which he took that many shots; he was 8-for-10 from 3-point range in the 61-point game against the Bobcats.

Next up for the Heat are the Boston Celtics, tomorrow night. James is one of two players who have played at least 10 games against the Celtics and averaged at least 30 points against them. His 30.1 points scoring average trails only Michael Jordan’s 30.7.

Elias Sports Bureau Notes of the Night
James is the first player with two 25-point quarters in the same month since Kobe Bryant, who had two in his 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors on January 22, 2006 (27 in third, 28 in fourth).

James is 12-1 against the Cavaliers since leaving Cleveland (.923 winning percentage). The best record by a retired player against his former team, among players with at least five All-Star selections for that former team, is Oscar Robertson’s 19-2 mark against the Cincinnati Royals/Kansas City Kings.

Bulls have Heat's number behind Noah

March, 9, 2014
Mar 9

Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJoakim Noah filled up the stat sheet in the Bulls' win against the Heat.
The Chicago Bulls continued their recent trend of success against the Miami Heat with a 95-88 overtime win on Sunday afternoon.

With the win, the Bulls improved to 9-6 in the regular season against the Heat since Miami acquired LeBron James and Chris Bosh (starting with the 2010-11 season). That’s tied with the Memphis Grizzlies for the best regular-season record against the Heat in that span.

The Bulls have been even better at home, going 7-1 in their regular season home matchups with the Heat in that time.

Joakim Noah filled up the stat sheet for Chicago, finishing with 20 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and five blocks. He’s the first Bulls player to have at least 20 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and five blocks in a game since Scottie Pippen pulled it off in 1995.

Noah is one of just three players to have at least 20 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and five blocks in a game this season. The others to do so (Josh Smith and Dwight Howard) both did it against the Philadelphia 76ers.

For the Heat, LeBron James continued his recent relative struggles, scoring 23 points on 8-of-23 shooting from the field. Since scoring a career-high 61 points last Monday against the Charlotte Bobcats, James has totaled 58 points in his last three games (19.3 points per game).

His shooting has especially suffered from outside. In the past three games, James has shot 3-of-27 (11 percent) from outside the paint, including 2-of-10 in Sunday’s loss.

James also failed to get to the free-throw line in the loss. It’s the first time since Dec. 2, 2009 that he’s failed to attempt a free throw in a game, snapping a streak of 332 consecutive games.

Chicago’s Jimmy Butler was one of the most valuable Bulls on the day for the job he did defending James. James finished with more turnovers (three) than field goals (two) when defended by Butler in Sunday’s game, finishing with 4 points on 2-for-11 shooting.

James scores enough for everyone

March, 3, 2014
Mar 3

LeBron James scored more than he ever had before.
On a night in which the Miami Heat were without Dwyane Wade, LeBron James decided to pick up the scoring slack … and then some. And he was unencumbered by his protective mask.

The highlights from the Heat's eighth straight win center around their star.

James set career highs and Heat records for points in a game (61), points in a quarter (25 in the third quarter) and field goals made in a game (22). He also tied his career high for 3-pointers in a game with eight as the Heat cruised to a 124-107 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats in Miami.

James finished one point shy of Carmelo Anthony’s single-season high for points in a game. Anthony had 62, also against the Bobcats.

James brought more than enough points for everyone. The Heat's big three entered the day with 3,159 points in 56 games, an average of 56.4 points per game.

Bobcats have been here before
The Bobcats are the second team in NBA history to allow two different players to score 60 or more points in a single game in the same season. The 1961-62 Knicks are the other. That team yielded 100 points to Wilt Chamberlain (as well as a 67-point game by him) and 63 points to Jerry West.

The Bobcats have been the opposing team the past three times that a player scored at least 55 points (Deron Williams, Anthony and James).

Man with the mask
In three games since donning a face mask to protect his broken nose, James is shooting 67 percent from the field and averaging 37.3 points.

He hasn’t hesitated to go to the basket, making 28 of his 34 shots in the paint.

But James did add one shot to his repertoire on Monday. He was 6-for-6 when shooting a 3-pointer from the left side. He did not attempt a 3-pointer from that side of the court in either of the past two games.

Did You Know?
This marked only the second time in the past 24 seasons that two different players scored at least 60 points in a game in the same season. The other was in 2006-2007, when Kobe Bryant and Gilbert Arenas did so.

James had 61 points, seven rebounds and five assists. He’s only the seventh different player to hit all three of those benchmarks in a game. The others are Elgin Baylor (twice), Chamberlain, Rick Barry, Michael Jordan, David Robinson and Tracy McGrady.

This was the 10th time that James scored at least 50 points in a game. It was the first in which he did so on his home court.

James finished with an effective field goal percentage (a stat that adds weight for 3-point shots) of 78.8 percent.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that only two players in the shot-clock era have had a higher percentage in a 60-point game-- Wilt Chamberlain (82.9) and Karl Malone (80.8).

LeBron stays efficient in Heat rout of Knicks

February, 28, 2014
Feb 28
ESPN Stats & InformationLeBron James and Dwyane Wade frequented the paint in Thursday’s win against the Knicks.
LeBron James showed no ill effects from the broken nose he suffered last Thursday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, attacking the paint relentlessly in the Miami Heat’s 108-82 rout of the New York Knicks.

James was efficient in his return to the lineup after missing Sunday’s win against the Chicago Bulls, scoring a game-high 31 points on 13-of-19 from the field.

The 31-point effort was James' fifth consecutive 30-point game, and third straight such game while also shooting at least 65 percent from the field.

In fact, in the past two seasons, James has 19 games where he's scored at least 30 points while connecting on at least 65 percent from the field. That's nine more such games than the next-closest player in that span: Kevin Durant, who has 10.

Attacking the paint on Thursday helped key James' efficiency. He made 11-of-12 in the paint against the Knicks, with all but one of those field goals coming in the restricted area.

It capped a February for James in which he averaged 30.8 PPG, 8.1 RPG and shot 57.5 percent from the field. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, James is the first player since Shaquille O’Neal in March 2003 to average 30 points, eight rebounds and shoot 57 percent in a calendar month (minimum five games).

James was one-half of Miami’s two-pronged attack in the paint Thursday.

Seven of Dwyane Wade's 10 field goals came in the paint, making 5-of-6 in the restricted area.

Wade finished with 23 points on 10-of-13 from the floor overall.

James and Wade combined to shoot 18-20 (90%) inside the paint against the Knicks, the fourth-highest percentage they've shot in the paint together as teammates.

The Heat have won six straight, the longest active win streak in the league.

The two-man attack was simply too much for a Knicks team, despite an early scoring burst from their superstar.

Carmelo Anthony entered the game having scored at least 42 points in three of his past four games, and seemed headed that way again after a 24-point first half.

But Anthony managed just five points in the third, and didn't get much of a chance to add to his total after playing just three minutes in the final quarter with the game out of reach.

Anthony struggled when defended by Shane Battier, shooting 3-of-10 from the field when guarded by him. Against all other Heat defenders, Anthony made 8-of-10 from the field.

The Knicks have lost four straight, and are currently 2-10 in February.

Top stats to know: Heat at Thunder

February, 20, 2014
Feb 20

Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY SportsRussell Westbrook is close to rejoining Kevin Durant in the Thunder lineup

Russell Westbrook is expected to return Thursday night as the Oklahoma City Thunder take on the Miami Heat for the second time this season. The Thunder defeated the Heat 112-95 January 29 without the help of Westbrook, and his return would only complicate matters more for the Heat.

Westbrook's impact

The Thunder initially struggled when Westbrook went down earlier this season. In the team’s first 10 games without him starting December 27, the Thunder went 5-5 and averaged 100.4 points per game.

The Thunder won 10 straight following that 5-5 stretch and have won 15 of the last 17 games en route to an NBA best 43-12 (.782) record.

Despite the recent hot streak, Westbrook will be a welcome sight in the lineup. The Thunder have gone 21-4 (.840) this season with Westbrook active, and have averaged 5.5 more points per game when he plays.

Although the Thunder score more with Westbrook in the lineup, his teammate Kevin Durant does not.

Durant has averaged 34.0 points per game this season with Westbrook out compared to 28.6 points per game with Westbrook in the lineup. It might be a dip for Durant, but his scoring average with Westbrook would still lead the NBA this season.

Durant vs James

LeBron James is 13-4 in his career in games against Kevin Durant (including playoffs) but the two have nearly gone point-for-point in their matchups.

Durant has averaged only 0.7 points per game more than James when going head-to-head in the regular season. When the two met earlier this season James scored 34 points to Durant’s 33.

James was the primary defender on Durant for most of the first matchup this season. Although Durant’s average shot was 20.8 feet away from the basket when guarded by James in the game, he still managed to shoot 9 of 17 (52.9 percent) with 23 points on those possessions.

Durant didn’t guard James as frequently on the other end of the floor but was effective when he did. James shot 2 of 6 and scored eight points total against Durant with an average shot 18.3 feet from the basket. When James was guarded by anyone else, he went 10 of 14 with 26 points and an average shot distance of 10.4 feet.

Road warriors

The trip to Oklahoma City is the last of a six-game road trip for the Heat. The Heat have gone 4-1 on the trip so far, with the only loss coming against the Utah Jazz. The Jazz were the only team on the trip with a record outside the top ten in the NBA.

James has been leading the charge for the Heat over the stretch, averaging 31.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 7.0 assists the last five games.

If the Thunder are able to beat the Heat again, they will be the third team in the “Big 3” era to sweep the Heat in a season series with at least two games played. The previous two, the 2010-11 Mavericks and the 2010-11 Bulls, each met the Heat in the playoffs that year.

James turns 50 with 40

February, 18, 2014
Feb 18

LeBron James was historically good on Tuesday night.

The Miami Heat are still offering up payback to the Dallas Mavericks for their loss in Game 6 of the 2011 NBA Finals.

And LeBron James remains at the front of the line, finishing with 42 points in the Heat’s sixth straight win over the Mavericks since that Finals defeat.

Here’a a run-through of superlatives from James’ highest-scoring game this season.

James notched his 50th career 40-point game, joining Kobe Bryant (120) as the only active players with at least 50 career 40-point games. James reached the milestone in his 816th career game. Bryant reached it 157 games faster than that.

James also tallied nine rebounds and six assists. He has 39 games with at least 40 points, five rebounds and five assists. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that the only players with more are Oscar Robertson (71), Michael Jordan (62), Wilt Chamberlain (61) and Elgin Baylor (40).

Elias also noted that James joined Jordan, Bryant and Allen Iverson as the only players since the NBA-ABA merger with at least 50 40-point games before turning 30.

James has now scored at least 35 points in three straight games for the first time with the Heat

The last time he scored at least 35 in three straight games was in January 2010 with the Cleveland Cavaliers (four straight games).

James outscored the Mavericks, 12-11 over the final 7:30. He was 4-for-6 from the field in that span. The Mavericks were 3-for-14. James’ fourth-quarter/overtime scoring rate (36.8 points per 40 minutes) is the highest of any player in the NBA this season. He’s shooting 57 percent from the field in the final period/overtime.

James became the first player with a 40-5-5 game against the Mavericks since Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz on Jan. 13, 1990.

They Said It
”I’m in a zone right now.”
-- James after the game

This was almost as good of a zone for any game that James has ever played.

James was 16-for-23 from the field (69.6 percent). The only game in his career in which he took at least that many shots and connected for a higher percentage was in Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, when he scored 45 points on 19-of-26 shooting against the Boston Celtics.

The 16-for-23 tied the best shooting percentage for James in a regular-season game, matching the 16-for-23 he shot against the Mavericks on March 29, 2006.

Big questions for the NBA's second half

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
With the NBA at the All-Star break, big questions loom for the second half of the season.

We dive into some of those topics and provide possible answers:

Is the Heat defense strong enough to win another title?
Heat opponents have an effective field goal percentage (which takes into account the added value of a 3-pointer) of 51.6% this season, tied for the 2nd-worst in the league.

Since the three-point line was adopted (1979-80), no team that has allowed an effective field goal percentage of 50% or higher and gone on to win the title that season (267 teams).

The Heat are allowing 103.2 points per 100 possessions, tied for 14th in the NBA. Although results from last season suggest they could turn it around.

Their defensive efficiency ranked 11th in the NBA at the All-Star break last season, but 4th after the All-Star Break.

Are the Blazers serious contenders in the West?
Portland has lost seven of its last eight games against teams at or above .500 after starting the season 12-5 against such teams.

Their play down the stretch has been a complete turnaround from earlier in the season.

Each of their last three losses were decided by five or fewer points. They are 3-5 in such games in the new year after starting 8-3.

Damian Lillard had three game-winning shots in the final 10 seconds of the 4th quarter or overtime in the first three months of the season, most in the NBA. Since then he and the Blazers have tailed off in clutch moments (defined as the final five minutes, score within five points of 4th Qtr/OT).

Will Carmelo have enough in the tank to get the Knicks into the postseason?
Carmelo Anthony is averaging a career-high 38.8 minutes per game this season.
Carmelo Anthony
That is perhaps one reason why he is shooting a career-low 35.7 percent in the 4th quarter or overtime this season.

He is 0-of-8 on game-tying or go-ahead field goal attempts in the final 10 seconds of the 4th quarter or overtime this season, and 0-of-12 over the last two seasons. He was 5-of-10 on such shots in his first two seasons with the Knicks.

New York has suffered as a result. They are 1-6 in games decided by one possession (final score within three points) this season.

Is Durant really the NBA’s best closer and the MVP favorite?
LeBron James is shooting 52.2 percent in clutch time this season, compared with Durant’s 34.2 percent in those situations.

James has the best field goal percentage among 20 players with at least 50 field goal attempts in clutch time, and the next-closest player is shooting 42.9 percent (Lillard).

Will Dwight Howard be dominant enough for a Rockets title run?
The Rockets are on a seven-game win streak, the longest active streak in the NBA,
Dwight Howard
including wins against the Spurs, Suns and Mavericks. Dwight Howard is averaging 24.5 points per game on 60.0 percent shooting during the streak.

The Rockets are outscoring opponents by 15.3 points per 100 possessions with Dwight Howard on the court in those 7 games, and have been outscored by 4.5 points per 100 possessions with him off.

However, Dwight’s season has been far from eye popping. His player efficiency rating (PER) of 21.7 ranks 10th among current starting power forwards and centers this season.

His PER was fourth in the NBA (25.4), and best among power forwards and centers when the Magic made the NBA Finals in 2008-09.

Dwight Howard may have been given a slight pass last season given the drama in L.A. and coming off back surgery, but his overall performance has not improved much in Houston. He is averaging 1.7 more points per game, but with roughly the same field goal percentage, rebounds and blocks per game as last season.

--Contributions from John Parolin, Will Cohen, Sunny Saini, Steve Martinez & Doug Clawson

Heat defense has a couple soft spots

February, 11, 2014
Feb 11
“They are somewhat of an inconsistent basketball team. Their footspeed on the perimeter is in trouble … I’m worried that they don’t win with the defensive intensity that they’ve normally brought to the table.”
-- ESPN analyst George Karl on the Miami Heat defense (SportsCenter, Feb. 6).

The Heat continue their six-game road trip against the Phoenix Suns Tuesday and it will be worth checking out a few things with regards to Karl’s recent observations.

Since the three-point line was adopted (1979-80 season), none of the 267 teams that have allowed an effective field goal percentage (an adjustment to shooting percentage that takes into account the value of 3-pointers) of 50 percent or higher has gone on to win the title that season.

The Heat’s opponents have an effective field goal percentage of 51.5 percent this season and are scoring 103 points per 100 possessions. Both of those would be the best for Heat opponents during the Big-3 era (since 2010-11) if sustained for a full season.

Perhaps now is when the Heat will turn things up a notch. There is precedent for this.

After 49 games last season, the Heat’s defensive efficiency ranked 11th in the NBA (102 points allowed per 100 possessions). Their defensive efficiency improved to 98.8 points per 100 possessions for the rest of the season, helping drive a 27-game winning streak.

Why is the defense struggling?
The Heat are allowing their opponents to get to the basket easily, as 32 percent of their opponents' possessions end with a shot, foul drawn or turnover within 10 feet of the basket, the third-highest percentage in the NBA.

They are allowing the most points per game and highest field goal percentage at the rim since the beginning of the 2010-11 season. When the Heat do close down the lanes to the basket, they have struggled to close out the shooters consistently.

Teams are averaging 23.4 points per game off of catch-and-shoot opportunities (sixth-highest in the NBA) and nearly half of those points (11.1) come from players who took what were classified as open shots, the eighth-highest total in the NBA.

That’s a stat to watch out for Tuesday. The Suns average 1.13 points per catch-and-shoot opportunity, the second-highest success rate in the league, trailing only the Atlanta Hawks.

Thunder dial long distance to down Heat

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29

Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsKevin Durant and the Thunder are all smiles after beating the Heat in Miami.
On the road and facing an 18-point deficit in the first quarter against the defending champs? No problem for the Oklahoma City Thunder, who rallied to beat the Miami Heat 112-95 on Wednesday night.

How rare was the win? The 18-point comeback marked the second-largest for the Thunder since moving to Oklahoma City, and it was just the fourth time the Heat have blown a lead of at least 18 points in the Big 3 era spanning the last four seasons.

In the last 15 seasons, 624 teams trailed by at least 18 points in the first quarter. The Thunder are just the third team to surge back and win that game by at least 15 points. The only other teams to do this were the Golden State Warriors at the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1999 and the Dallas Mavericks at the Toronto Raptors in 2011.

What were the keys to victory for the Thunder, who extended their win streak to nine games?

Durant cannot be stopped
Kevin Durant continued his scoring spree with his 12th consecutive 30-point game. That’s a streak that neither LeBron James and Michael Jordan have been able to match. The last players to do it were Kobe Bryant (16 straight) and Tracy McGrady (14) in the 2002-03 season.

Durant took advantage of James guarding him, going 9 for 17 with 23 points when LeBron was his defender.

He also excelled on the break, scoring 10 of the team’s 24 points in transition. Durant now has 270 transition points this season, third-most in the league.

With the win, Durant improved 4-13 in his career in head-to-head matchups vs LeBron, and helped the Thunder earn their first victory against the Heat since Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Finals.

Long-distance shooting
The Thunder dominated the Heat from beyond the arc, making 16 of 23 three-pointers, compared to just 3 of 19 for Miami.

The Thunder moved the ball well around the perimeter, assisting on 13 of their 16 made 3-point field goals. Entering the game, the Thunder had assisted on a league-low 71.7 percent of their made 3-pointers.

It was the Thunder’s most 3-pointers made since moving to Oklahoma City and their most in a game since February 23, 2005 at the Hornets.

The Heat committed 21 turnovers, one shy of their season-high, and were outscored 25-14 in points off turnovers. Oklahoma City is now averaging 18.1 points off turnovers per game, the sixth-most in the NBA.

Miami really struggled to hold onto the ball in the second quarter, turning it over seven times, which led to 12 Oklahoma City points. Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade combined for five of those seven miscues in the second quarter.

Three reasons for Knicks' recent success

January, 10, 2014
Jan 10

Soobum Im/USA TODAY Sports
Iman Shumpert has been a huge part of the Knicks' five-game turnaround.

It was not too long ago that Iman Shumpert was at the center of several different trade rumors for the reeling New York Knicks. Now, things in New York are far from perfect, but a three-game win streak (first of the season) and a strong five-game stretch have given Knicks’ fans something to get excited about. And Shumpert has been at the center of the recent turnaround.

So what has led to the Knicks’ recent success?

Iman Shumpert’s turnaround

Over the last five games, the Knicks are outscoring opponents by 58 points with Iman Shumpert on the court and getting outscored by 30 points with him off the court. He has played 169 minutes and sat 71 minutes over that stretch.

Shumpert entered the league three seasons ago with a reputation as a strong defender. While his defense has certainly had an impact over this five-game stretch, his offense is what has been most surprising.

Over the last five games, Shumpert has averaged 15.8 points per game, 2.8 assists per game and 1.8 steals per game. All of those would be career highs for Shumpert (APG tied for career high).

His effective field goal percentage (adjusts for value of three-point field goal) is 76.0 percent over the last five games, compared to 42.7 percent before that.

During the Knicks’ win over the Miami Heat Thursday, Shumpert hit three shots from behind the arc in the 3rd quarter.

That is perhaps where he has improved the most over the last five games. Shumpert has attempted 5.6 threes per game and connected on 3.4 per game over the last five games. Through the first 30 of the season, Shumpert was attempting 2.7 3-pointers a game and connecting on just 0.8 per game.

Better defense

The Knicks as a whole have picked it up on the defensive end over the last five games. And it has not been because they have faced weak competition. They’ve beaten the Spurs, Heat and Mavericks during that stretch, who are a combined 75-33 this season.

Over the last five games, the Knicks have allowed 92.0 points per game, compared to 99.2 points per game during the first 30 games this season. That improvement comes even though the Knicks are playing at a relatively similar pace – 92.7 possessions per 48 minutes through Dec. 31, compared to 91.1 in the new year.

Getting easier looks

Against the Heat Thursday night, the Knicks finished with 52 points in the paint, breaking a streak of 73 consecutive games in which they scored 50 or fewer paint points.

The Knicks are averaging 6.5 more points per 100 possessions over their 4-1 stretch, and one of the reasons why is that they are getting easier looks. Over the last 5 games, the Knicks have averaged about 4 more paint points per game than they did in the first 30 games of the season.

Top stats to know: Heat at Lakers

December, 25, 2013
The Lakers take on the Heat in the Staples Center at 5 p.m. ET on ABC.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the 15th consecutive year that the Lakers are playing on Christmas (since 1999), second only to the Knicks, who played on Christmas for 38 straight years (1950 to 1987).

Kobe Bryant has played in an NBA-record 14 straight Christmas games, a streak that will end Wednesday. The longest active streak of games played on Christmas now belongs to LeBron James, who will have played in seven straight after Wednesday.

The Heat are a perfect 6-0 against the Western Conference this season. They're averaging 110.2 points per game and shooting 56.1 percent in those games, both best in the NBA.

On top of that, the Heat are 4-0 all time against the Lakers on Christmas. The teams last met on Dec. 25 back in 2010, the first season in which the Big Three was formed. James recorded a triple-double in that game, totaling 27 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

Let's take a look at some important stats to keep an eye on during Wednesday's game.

James' torrid pace

LeBron is on pace to have one of the most efficient seasons in NBA history. King James is averaging 24.9 points on a career-best 60.1 percent shooting. The only player in NBA history who averaged at least 25 points while shooting 60 percent or better from the field in a single season was Kevin McHale in 1986-87.

James shot 56.5 percent from the field last season. Should he increase his field goal percentage again this season, it would be the seventh straight season he's done so.

[+] EnlargeLeBron James
ESPN Stats & InformationJames has improved his field goal percentage in each of the past six seasons. If he continues this pace, he will become only the second player in NBA history to accomplish that.

Lenny Wilkens is the only player in NBA history who increased his field goal percentage in seven consecutive seasons, and his highest shooting percentage during that streak was 44.0 percent.

LeBron is averaging 28.2 points in 20 career games against the Lakers, the fourth-highest mark all time. Only Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan had higher averages against the Lakers.

James can join some legendary ranks this season. He is seeking to join Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell as the only players in NBA history to win three straight MVPs.

On top of that, he can win his fifth MVP award. The only players to win at least five are Abdul-Jabbar (six), Jordan (five) and Russell (five).

He also can become the first player in NBA history to win five MVP awards in a six-season span.

Lakers better without Kobe?

Bryant holds the record for appearances (15) and total points (383) on Christmas Day. The last time the Lakers played a Christmas game without Bryant was in 1991, when they defeated the Clippers 85-75.

But the Lakers are 11-11 without their superstar, compared to 2-4 with Bryant active. L.A. has won seven of its past 11 games without Bryant.

Nick Young leads the Lakers in scoring average this season with 15.4 points per game. That’s the second-fewest points by a team’s leading scorer this season. Only O.J. Mayo, who leads the Bucks in scoring, has a lower average (13.9).

Heat rally to even season series with Pacers

December, 18, 2013

Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty ImagesDwyane Wade scored 24 of his game-high 35 points in the paint.
After trailing by as many as 15 points, the Miami Heat rallied late and closed on a 12-2 run to even their season series with the Indiana Pacers at one apiece.

Dwyane Wade led all scorers with a season-high 32 points, making 15 of 25 from the field. It was his 202nd career 30-point game, fourth among all players since he entered the league in 2003.

Most of Wade's scoring came in the paint, where he scored 24 points on 18 attempts. It’s Wade’s most points in the paint in a single game since scoring 28 against the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 4 last season.

LeBron James overcame early foul trouble -- he was whistled for a season-high three fouls in the first half -- to finish with 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

Chris Bosh added 15 points, including the 3-pointer that tied it at 92 during Miami's game-ending run. Overall, the Heat's Big Three combined for 71 of Miami's 97 points, and shot a combined 57 percent from the field.

For the Pacers, in what's become typical fashion, Paul George ramped up his scoring after halftime. The NBA's best second-half scorer this season had 18 of his team-high 25 points after halftime.

George fared better when he was guarded by someone other than James on Wednesday. With James defending him, George was 3-for-9 from the field with six points and two turnovers. Against everyone else, he scored 19 points on 5-for-7 shooting with one turnover.

Roy Hibbert entered the game averaging nearly 19 points the past two seasons against the Heat, but struggled with foul trouble as well, drawing his fifth foul with 8:34 remaining in the third quarter. He finished with six points in 23 minutes, his second straight game with fewer than 10 points.

Maybe not surprisingly, with their best rim protector battling foul trouble all night, the Pacers allowed a season-high 50 points in the paint.

The loss was the Pacers' first this season when leading after three quarters. Prior to Wednesday, they had been 18-0 in such situations.

George leads offense and defense vs. Heat

December, 18, 2013
Tonight in South Beach, the two best teams in the Eastern Conference meet, as the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat square off for the second time in nine days (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).

The first time around
When these teams met Dec. 10, the Pacers won 90-84, holding LeBron James to 17 points on a season-low 37.5 percent from the field. It was the 196th regular-season game that Miami’s Big Three played together, but it was the first loss in which none of them scored at least 20 points.

The Heat shot 43 percent from the field, their second-worst shooting performance this season, including 4-for-21 from 3-point range.

Roy Hibbert was a key factor on both ends of the court. He totaled 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting, and Miami was 3-for-12 from the field on shots he contested.

Offense vs. Defense
That game aside, the Heat have had one of the league’s best offenses this season, scoring 111 points per 100 possessions, second-best in the NBA behind the Portland Trail Blazers.

Miami is the only team hitting more than half of its field goals this season (51 percent), and the Heat have been particularly effective on the run, scoring 1.2 points per transition play, second-most in the league.

The Pacers counter with the NBA’s best defense, allowing a league-low 97 points per 100 possessions and 41 percent field goal shooting.

Indiana’s transition defense has been stellar, as well: 12.4 transition points per game at a rate of 1 point per play, both second-lowest in the league.

George excels on both ends
On the strength of both his offense and defense, Paul George has climbed into the MVP discussion. He ranks seventh in the NBA, scoring 23.8 points per game, up 6.4 points per game from last season.

Paul George
His midrange game has provided the bulk of that increase. On two-point shots outside the paint, George has improved his shooting from 36.3 percent last season to 43.8 percent this season.

George may be even more important on the defensive end. Indiana is outscoring opponents by 13.9 points per 100 possessions with George on the court this season.

In the 273 minutes he’s been off the court, the Pacers are much worse, getting outscored by 10.2 points per 100 possessions.

George also ranks first in the league with 1.9 defensive win shares this season, according to He led the NBA last season with 6.3 defensive win shares, which estimate the number of wins contributed by a player's defense.

Importance of LeBron
With LeBron James a game-time decision tonight, George may become even more of an offensive weapon for the Pacers.

When these teams met last week, LeBron James switched off as the primary defender on George after picking up his third foul with 9:18 remaining in the third quarter. With Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen guarding George the rest of the game, he scored 15 points on 4-of-7 shooting, while turning the ball over only once.

George sparks Pacers after shedding James

December, 10, 2013
The Indiana Pacers took Round One in the first matchup of the season between the only two teams with winning records in the Eastern Conference, coming from behind to beat the Miami Heat, 90-84.

It was the first meeting between the teams since last season’s Eastern Conference Finals, which went the full seven games before the Heat prevailed. Including the playoffs, the Pacers are now 6-5 over the last two seasons against the Heat.

George Excels After LeBron Switched Off
The key to the game was LeBron James being switched off as the primary defender on Indiana’s Paul George after picking up his third foul with 9:18 remaining in the third quarter with the Heat leading 51-46. To that point, George was 0-for-4 from the field with five turnovers, with James forcing three of those turnovers.

But once George’s primary defender switched from James to a combination of Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen, he was able to spark the Indiana comeback, scoring 15 of his 17 points from that point on. Against Wade/Allen, George was 4-for-7 from the field and committed just one turnover.

LeBron Tails Off in Second Half
While George was picking it up on the offensive end in the second half, he was also limiting James on the other end of the court. In the second half, James shot just 1-for-6 from the field for three points when guarded by George. In the first half, James went 3-for-5 when he was defended by George.

Part of the reason for the falloff is that James' shots moved farther from the rim in the second half. His average shot distance when defended by George was more than 10 feet longer in the second half compared to the first.

James finished the game shooting 6-for-16 from the field. The 37.5 field goal percentage is his worst mark in a game this season.

Hibbert Impacts Both Ends of Floor
Roy Hibbert
But George wasn’t the only impact player for the Pacers. Center Roy Hibbert led all players with 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting in the victory.

Defensively, Hibbert was just as good as he was on the offensive end. The Heat shot just 3-for-12 on all shots contested by Hibbert in the game, despite an average shot distance of 4.5 feet.

The Pacers are shooting for home-court advantage in the playoffs, and they’ve been unbeatable at home this season, improving to 10-0 with Tuesday’s victory. That’s the best home start in franchise history.

Indiana also did something that had not been done all season by any team – beat the Heat when being held under 100 points. The Heat had won their first 15 games this season when holding opponents under 100 points. Meanwhile, the Heat were held to a season-low 84 points, including just 37 in the second half.

James turns up Heat on defense

December, 3, 2013

Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesSince LeBron’s criticism of the Heat’s defense, the team is on a 10-game win streak.

After a relatively slow start to the season, in which the Miami Heat started 4-3, LeBron James commented on his team’s poor defense, saying "We're terrible on defense, and we've got to change that".

Through the first seven games of the year, the Heat indeed struggled, allowing 100.9 points per game while opponents were shooting 47.3 percent from the floor.

However, that trend has been put into reverse since.

LeBron’s teammates listened

Since those comments, Miami’s defense has clamped down and the Heat have won 10 straight games. In that span, Heat opponents are averaging just 91.6 points while connecting on 41.6 percent of attempts.

Miami’s defense has been much more efficient, as well.

During that 4-3 start, the Heat were giving up 105.4 points per 100 possessions, but in the span of 10 straight wins, they’ve allowed only 94.8 points per 100.

James keeps improving

James, meanwhile, could be well on his way to a fifth MVP award, which would equal Michael Jordan and Bill Russell's totals.

His efficiency continues to be a prime strength.

He leads everyone in Player Efficiency Rating at 30.3 this season (the league average is 15), and has been at the top in that metric in each of the previous six seasons.
LeBron James

Where James is really improving is close to the basket. In his first season with the Heat in 2010-11, James was 70.3 percent on attempts less than five feet from the hoop, but that percentage has increased in every season since. The season after, it rose to 73.8 percent, followed by 75.0 percent in the 2012-13 season.

He’s gotten even better around the basket this year, shooting 77.3 percent, the highest in the NBA among players with at least 50 attempts from that range.

James is also attacking the rim at a much higher percentage than he used to.

In the 2010-11 season, roughly 35 percent of his overall attempts came within five feet of the hoop. This season, that percentage has jumped to 45. It’s an impressive increase, especially considering his field goal percentage has also risen considerably in that span as well.

What’s more, his overall game this season has seen improvement in several major areas. While it’s still early, he’s posting single-season career highs in field goal percentage (59.8), 3-point field goal percentage (48.1) and free throw percentage (80.6), a scary prospect for anyone looking to stop Miami’s pursuit of a third straight championship.