The Beat Goes On For LeBron James
MIAMI -- What if LeBron James was a spectator and not a participant to his two weeks of historic play? What would he say about seeing someone else assemble this sort of unique streak?
"I'd be tweeting like crazy," James said. "I'm at a loss for words."
Pre-information age, James would be branded as just being "in a zone" for a six-game run that has developed into the centerpiece of his case for a fourth most valuable player award. Now, though, we have the computer database at Elias Sports Bureau and it spit out a report that's quantified it as an original achievement.
Being the only player ever to score 30 points and shoot better than 60 percent from the field in six straight games is hardly the stuff of childhood dreams. The caretakers of the Hall of Fame probably aren't looking for James' jersey after he put up 30 points on 11-of-15 shooting in the Miami Heat's 117-104 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.
But the stat thresholds in this case are just a way to verify the eye test, that James is having the mother of all hot streaks. James himself is having a difficult time coming to grips with the attempts to standardize more than 65 years of performances he's surpassing.
"It kind of blew my mind, some of the guys who [hadn't done it]," James said. "You would think Wilt [Chamberlain] would have a 40 [points a game]-70 [percent shooting] streak. You would think [Michael Jordan] would have one of those records where he shot unbelievable from the field. You would think Shaq. It was like 'Wow.'"
The numbers have been rolling up since Super Bowl Sunday in Toronto. Since the fourth quarter of that game, James has made 60 of his past 80 shots. His scoring binge and slick shooting have lifted the Heat to a six-game winning streak.
After going through a rocky period in January when some tempers flared a bit and there was some passive grumbling over shots, minutes and even roles, the Heat have re-identified the flow that carried them to the title last season. With James as the usual hub, the Heat zoomed past the Oklahoma City Thunder as the owners of the league's best offense.
While James has been getting justified attention for his 56 percent shooting mark this season, both Dwyane Wade (50 percent) and Chris Bosh (55 percent) are also hitting at a numbing pace. Tuesday, Bosh was 13-of-16 for 32 points and Wade was the laggard at 8-of-18 for 24 points.
Bosh's season is being especially obscured. According to Hoopdata.com, he's shooting 55 percent on shots from 16-plus feet, as a lethal pick-and-roll option with Wade and James. He has drawn ire for his rebounding struggles, and there were plenty who questioned his inclusion on the All-Star team, an opinion that currently seems a challenge to defend.
If the Heat somehow keep this up, Bosh and James would be the first teammates to shoot better than 55 percent (minimum 12 shots per game) since Kevin McHale and Robert Parish did it for the Boston Celtics in 1986-87.
"We just know what we're supposed to do, we know where we're supposed to be," Bosh said. "We're in each other's heads pretty well. Just the chemistry is flowing. When you know where you're going to get your shots there's no confusion and you can step up and shoot with confidence."
Two seasons ago, Blazers coach Terry Stotts was on the Dallas Mavericks' coaching staff when James averaged just 17 points and Bosh shot a lowly 41 percent. In Game 4 of the NBA Finals that season, James was held to eight points in what will probably go down as one of the most disappointing and unfathomable games of his career.
It's hard to even construct a comparison of then to now. Games in February aren't like games in June, of course, but Heat's offense has never shown so much bite.
"They really have gotten comfortable with each other," Stotts said. "They have found a style that works for them and they have familiarity with each other. The ball moves more, they know where people are going to be. There's less pressure on them, there's less scrutiny. Confidence on offense is paramount and they've gained confidence."
The Heat's effort Tuesday -- they shot 58 percent as a team -- completely obscured what otherwise was a brilliant performance by Blazers rookie Damian Lillard. Coming off his worst shooting game (1-of-16) Sunday in a bad loss at Orlando, Lillard played fearlessly against the Heat by scoring 33 points on 10-of-18 shooting.
Teammate LaMarcus Aldridge had 29 points on 13-of-20 shooting and was relegated to the fourth-best performer in the game.
That's the reality when sharing the court with James right now.
"I know how many great and dominant players have paved the way for me," James said. "To be able to have this streak, to be able to have it when we've won every game and to be efficient means a lot."
Where it stops, nobody knows.
2. Around the Association
MVP: LeBron James continued his streak of absurd play with 30 points on 11-of-15 shooting, 9 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks and only 1 turnover. He became the first player in NBA history to score at least 30 points on 60 percent or better shooting in six consecutive games.
X factor: Points off turnovers. The Heat feasted on the Blazers' mistakes, turning 15 of them into 24 points. Portland was only able to convert Miami's nine turnovers into 15 points.
That was efficient: In addition to James' outstanding shooting night, teammate Chris Bosh had 32 points on 13-of-16 shooting. For the Blazers, Damian Lillard had 33 points on 10-of-18 shooting and LaMarcus Aldridge had 29 on 13-of-20 shooting.
That was wait, what?: Kobe Bryant, world-renowned scoring wonder, had as many shot attempts as turnovers. He had as many makes as steals or blocks. Kobe finished 1-8 from the field, and was essentially a nonfactor in the game. Completely bizarre.
MVP: Sure, Dwight Howard had the gaudier stat line, but Antawn Jamison's contributions (19 points, 10 rebounds off the bench) were the result of great effort. It was also a boost for a team in constant need of one.
Defining moment: Howard had his shot blocked by 34-year-old Jermaine O'Neal in the fourth quarter. Kudos to O'Neal, who had a spectacular night, but this is proof of just how physically compromised Howard has become.
Most valuable player: The mayor of the left block was at it again. Al Jefferson pump faked his way to a team-high 23 points, working seamlessly with Paul Millsap in a dominating effort from Utah's frontcourt.
Least valuable player: Kevin Martin was slow to pull the trigger on that wacky jumper, and his lack of scoring (six points, 0-for-4 from deep) hurt a second unit that was outplayed and outscored 49-25.
X factor: Wasted possessions. Oklahoma City gave up 16 offensive rebounds, turned it over 20 times and generally looked a step slow. It's not often you shoot 55 percent from the field and lose by 15.
MVP: It's tough not to pick Rudy Gay, who hit his second game-winner in just six games as a Raptor. But this game wouldn't have been remotely close if it weren't for Ty Lawson, who buzzsawed through the Raptors' defense over and over en route to 29 points and nine assists.
LVP: Andrea Bargnani had looked decent in two games back and then sat down with the flu. Tuesday night, he was atrocious off the bench, shooting 2-of-7 with just a single rebound and a pair of turnovers in 18 minutes. If it weren't for the missed shots, nobody would have noticed him on the floor.
That was exciting: Roughly 222 possessions, based on quick math, with each team turning the ball over nearly 20 times, creating a ton of transition play. It wasn't always pretty, but the Nuggets are a fun fast-paced team and the Raptors are showing signs of turning in that direction with Gay in the fold.
MVP: In a somewhat low-key contest in Memphis, it was a low-key performance by Marc Gasol that carried the day: 24 points, 12 rebounds, stand-out interior defense in 41 minutes.
X factor: Despite an amusing play in crunch time, where he lost the handle out of bounds, Tony Allen played an outstanding offensive game in addition to his standard defensive prowess. Allen's 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting put Memphis over the edge.
Defining moment: With 5:13 left, the Kings trailed 94-87 and started to mount a comeback. Then Gasol used DeMarcus Cousins' defensive inexperience to breeze past him, draw an unobtrusive foul and knock down a dagger. The 10-point gap proved insurmountable.
3. Tuesday's Best
Another game, another ultra-efficient outing for LeBron, this one resulting in an NBA record for six straight games at 30 points/60 percent shooting. King James has now connected on 60 of his past 80 shot attempts. Let that sink in.
4. Tuesday's Worst
Thunder in Salt Lake:
Despite shooting nearly 56 percent, Oklahoma City fell by 15 in Utah. Hampered by 20 turnovers -- seven from Russell Westbrook -- the Thunder couldn't overcome Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and the Jazz's bench in the second half. OKC's win streak ends at four games.
5. NBA Video Channel
6. Tweet Of The Night
7. Quote Of The Night
"I'm at a loss for words. Like I say over and over, I know the history of the game. I know how many unbelievable players who came through the ranks, who paved the way for me and my teammates. And for me to be in the record books by myself with such a stat -- any stat -- it's big-time."
-- LeBron James, on becoming the first player in NBA history to score 30 points and shoot at least 60 percent in six straight games.
8. History Is Made
9. Stat Check
Kobe Bryant made only one of eight field goal attempts, handed out nine assists and had eight turnovers in the Lakers' win over the Suns.
Only one other player had an odd statistical line like that in an NBA game -- 1-for-8 or worse from the field with at least nine assists and eight turnovers -- since the league started keeping track of individual turnovers in 1977-78: Raymond Felton, who made only one of eight shots from the field with 12 assists and eight turnovers for the Portland Trail Blazers in a win over the New Orleans Hornets on Jan. 16, 2012.
10. Dunk Of The Night
Around The Association
MVP: Chandler Parsons did everything and it shows in his 21-8-9 line. He drained it from 3-point territory, rebounded, attacked the rim or whipped the ball to the perimeter -- so effectively that coach Mark Jackson yanked Harrison Barnes from the game.
That was unexpected: Near the end of the first quarter, Omer Asik received the ball at the top of the key and did what was least expected out of him: drive. Without fumbling the ball or committing a charge, he navigated his way to the basket and made a running layup.
X factor: Patrick Patterson is the perfect power forward for Houston, and he's criminally underrated. He hits corner 3-pointers and is the best big man running the floor in the NBA this side of Nikola Pekovic (1.43 points per play in transition, ninth in the NBA, per Synergy). He knows exactly how and when to cut in the Rockets' complex pick-and-roll. He torched David Lee all night to the tune of 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting.