Heat enjoying wheel of good fortune
MIAMI -- Before Thanksgiving dinner at LeBron James' Akron home on Thursday, and before the always emotional LeBron "homecoming" game in Cleveland on Wednesday, there was a festive atmosphere to Miami's 107-92 win over the Phoenix Suns on Monday, the Heat's seventh in a row.
The jovial night included free runs to the rim, an impressive display of fadeaways and was capped off by a couple of Dwyane Wade cartwheels that raised the ante in the video-bombing battle the Heat have become known for.
And still the most memorable picture was the stat line James provided: 35 points on 11-of-14 shooting, 2-of-4 from 3-point range and 11-of-11 from the foul line.
"It's remarkable that he's able to do that," said Wade, who complemented James' night with 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting with 12 assists. "That's a very, very efficient night, and the thing he's probably thinking about more than anything is that he had four turnovers in the first half. But he had none in the second half, so he fixed that.
"That's why he is who he is."
The Suns, still without leading scorer Eric Bledsoe, tried their best to shut down the party before it truly began, never allowing the Heat to extend the lead to double figures until the fourth quarter.
But Miami began to pull away to begin the fourth, with Wade handing out assists like he was Chris Paul -- three of them going to Ray Allen beyond the 3-point line -- to give the Heat a 91-75 lead four minutes into the period.
Phoenix, though, still kept it close enough to force Erik Spoelstra to bring James back in the game at the 5:50 mark.
So the four-time MVP decided to use the extra time to show off one particular shot: the turnaround fadeaway from the post.
With the 6-foot-6 P.J. Tucker on his back, James backed him down a bit before turning baseline and knocking down a 19-foot fadeaway. That must've felt quite good, because he went right back to it less than a minute later, this time turning middle before fading and hitting a 16-footer.
After a couple of free throws, James went to the post again, taking an even tougher, better-defended fadeaway from the baseline, and he hit that one, too.
It was about that time that James suggested to the Suns bench that they possibly consider double-teaming him.
"Something along those lines," James said after the game of his communication with the Phoenix bench.
There were moments last year when James went to that shot -- his version of the Michael Jordan/Kobe Bryant fadeaway that helped make them so unstoppable -- but he hadn't put together a flurry of those attempts yet this year.
Until Monday, that is, when he made Tucker his victim, even though Tucker thought he was doing all the right things defensively. And frankly, he probably was.
"P.J. Tucker told me, 'I'm gonna make you take those shots. I can live with those shots,'" James recounted after the game. "I told him he might not want to live with those shots."
The shooting display put James back up over 60 percent for the season -- 60.9 percent, to be exact. And as he explains, that difficult-looking fadeaway is very much a high-percentage shot in his mind.
"I can make those shots consistently," James said. "I work on them every single day I practice. I don't take bad shots. If I shoot a shot, for the most part it's a high-percentage shot."
Wade hasn't had the privilege of defending James in practice when he gets in fadeaway mode, because "when I guard him in practice, he goes to the basket. He likes me to feel it."
Yet Wade still can feel Tucker's pain.
"P.J. Tucker did what he's supposed to do, he bodied him, bodied him and made him turn to the baseline and shoot a tough shot," Wade said. "But [James] just got a couple inches over him.
"He went baseline, he went middle, he went baseline. As a defender, there's nothing you can do. He works on it, he has the lift, the athleticism, the strength, and obviously he's a great shooter and scorer. It's fun to see, but if I was on the other side, I'd be pissed."
Of course, there was no reason for Wade to be upset. Which is why he chose Monday night to turn the cartwheels while James was being interviewed on the court after the game.
Wade's youngest son, Zion, has apparently been a cartwheel machine around the house lately, so the 31-year-old has been participating. Then he hatched the plan.
"I told my lady one night, I said, 'You know what, I got one," Wade said. "I said, 'I'm going to break out my cartwheels.'"
As Wade's favorite comedian, Kevin Hart, would say, "You think it's a game? It's not a game."
"It's on now," Wade said. "I took it to another level. You can't just throw a towel at the camera."
Not sure how much higher the video-bomb bar can be raised, but someone might want to have a brainstorming session soon.
Because if James' play is any indication, there will be many, many more gleeful postgame moments to come.
While he's shooting 60 percent from the floor and 51.3 percent from 3-point range to get his 26 points a game, James says he's still not completely recovered from his earlier back issues and not quite in top form.
"I'm not there yet, but I'm right around the corner," he said. "I'm rounding third, and I'm feeling better every week."
That should have everyone in the Heat organization doing cartwheels daily.
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