LeBron heating up, Bosh providing spark
January, 24, 2014
By Michael Wallace
LeBron's takeLeBron James hasn’t matched the video-game type of numbers Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant has put up recently, but the Miami Heat catalyst has been playing with his own greater sense of urgency lately.
Coming off Thursday’s performance in a win over the Lakers, James has now averaged 29.6 points and shot 56.6 percent from the field over his past 10 games. That stretch has included six games when James has scored at least 30 points. He also had 27 points and 13 rebounds against Los Angeles, and the rebounding total was his highest in a Heat home game since he arrived in 2010.
James’ increased production, specifically with his scoring, coincides with teammate Dwyane Wade’s recent absences to cope with sore knees. Wade has missed four straight games and 13 overall this season. Earlier this week, James said the team needed to be more prepared psychologically to step up more when Wade is not available to play. Miami is 7-6 this season without Wade.
James said the lack of cohesion due to numerous injury absences over the first half of the season has made him “antsy” lately. But his focus is clear as the Heat look to hit their stride in the stretch run.
“I am just trying to get better and maintain my focus while I’m on the floor,” James said. “This is the second half of the season, and every game matters. We just want to try to get better with our game, and it starts with me. At the end of the day, whoever is in the lineup, we have guys that can make things happen. Guys have been stepping up.”
The Heat have beaten the Celtics and Lakers to open a four-game homestand since they returned from a 2-4 road trip. Despite some struggles recently, the Heat (31-12) have matched or exceeded the records of the previous three teams (Lakers twice, Bulls) that pursued a third straight title through 43 games.
After having a day off Friday, the Heat return to practice Saturday to prepare for Sunday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs in a matchup of teams that met in the Finals last season. Miami’s homestand wraps up Wednesday with a visit from Durant and the Western Conference-leading Thunder.
James has been pushing his teammates to follow the more urgent tone he’s set of late.
“When I go out on the floor, I try to play the game as if it is my last game that I may play in my career,” said James, who is 14 points shy of passing Clyde Drexler for 28th place on the NBA’s career scoring list. “They just try to follow me. We can do something very special here; we have an opportunity to do it. It is my job to make sure that they’re in tune and they are ready.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra continues to insist that the team isn’t running any more “actions” than normal to get center Chris Bosh involved offensively. And Bosh also has said he hasn’t made a point to ask his Heat teammates or Spoelstra to get him the ball more in recent games.
Instead, Bosh has taken it upon himself to be more aggressive. And the production bears that out in recent games. Fresh off his second 30-point game of the season (he scored 31 on 22 shots), Bosh says he will continue to look for opportunities to consistently provide more of a spark for the Heat.
It’s no coincidence that Bosh’s top two scoring games of the season have come against two of the better power forwards in the game. Thursday, he was matched up against Pau Gasol. Last month, Bosh scored 37 points, including the game-winning basket, against LaMarcus Aldridge and the Trail Blazers.
“It’s just competition; I know that they’re two of the best bigs in the West,” Bosh said. “Anytime you play those guys, you just want to step up and make sure you’re doing your job, especially when you know everybody is watching. It allows me to step up and show what I can do.”
Next up for Bosh: Tim Duncan on Sunday and Serge Ibaka on Wednesday.
“You can either be proactive or sit around and wait for people to do things for you,” said Bosh, who is averaging 24 points on 58.3 percent shooting in his last six games. “Sometimes it just doesn’t work that way. When you’re more proactive, things can change because you make them change. I’m just trying to make sure I’m being as aggressive as possible.”
The Heat are 12-0 over four seasons when Bosh has scored at least 30 points.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade (knee) will be reevaluated before Sunday’s game to determine his availability against the Spurs. San Antonio will be without swingman Kawhi Leonard (broken hand) against Miami.
Did you know?Greg Oden still keeps a pair of former Heat great Alonzo Mourning’s old basketball shoes in his locker at AmericanAirlines Arena. Oden said Mourning gave him the signature black and red shoes, adorned with the No. 33, in training camp. Oden, who wears a size 19, said he wore the size 18 shoes during the lone preseason game he played on Oct. 23 in New Orleans. And they’ve become keepsakes.
Quote of the day
“It was a long four years. This time last year, I was just sitting at home. I’m just happy to be playing again.” -- Greg Oden, who has played four games in eight days after sitting out four years to recover from major knee surgeries.