In case you hadn’t gathered, ^that’s LeBron’s shot chart from Miami’s 99-94 win over Charlotte. It should probably be added to every English dictionary next to the word “efficiency.” As he missed just one of 14 attempts, LeBron racked up a game-high 31 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 8 assists. He scored 10 of those points in the fourth quarter, when the Heat totally took over what had been a three-point game and led by as many as nine (final score makes it out to be a bit closer than I felt it was). As I watched Miami’s fourth-quarter run unfold, I couldn’t help but draw a parallel to Sunday’s victory over Toronto. Like the Bobcats did last night, the Raptors hung around through three quarters. Then LeBron James (and to a lesser extent Chris Bosh) simply decided it was time to dominate. Upon his doing so, both games were as good as over (James + Bosh: 21 4th Q PTS vs TOR, 20 vs CHA).
The most incredible single statistic in regards to LeBron’s efficiency? Add up the distances of all 14 of his attempts. You’ll come up with a combined total of 44 feet (average of 3.14). That’s like one JR Smith heat check in 14 LeBron James attempts. To think about it like that, it’s truly flabbergasting.
As the Clippers lost their sixth of eight (98-90 to the Wizards) it became quite apparent why Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are kind of vital to this team. It was a one-point game at the midway point of the fourth quarter and Jamal Crawford had been cooking (28 points), but the Wizards would go on an 11-0 run brought about by Clipper mistakes that likely never happen if Paul and Griffin are present. The first error was made when Grant Hill threw a terrible entry pass, which was stolen, resulting in Washington free throws. When Nene missed the second of two, he was able to get his own rebound and pass it off to Trevor Ariza for a three-pointer. Next, the Clippers made yet another poor entry pass and the Wizards secured yet another offensive rebound, leading to a two-point score by Garrett Temple. A third Clipper turnover and back-to-back John Wall buckets (one of which was a jumper!) completed the run and essentially put the game out of reach. While I give the Wizards all due credit for pulling this one out, I have a feeling the Clippers wouldn’t have experienced such incredible struggles in completing basic passes and securing free-throw rebounds had Paul and Griffin been on the court. Please, guys, get well soon. This team is not the same right now and League Pass is worse for it.
Eric Bledsoe, though. Look at this freaking block:
Though one of the referees halfheartedly blew his whistle out of sheer bewilderment, the play was eventually (and correctly) ruled a blocked shot and the ball was awarded to the Clippers. This, my friends, just might be the block of the year. Bledsoe, who is generously listed at 6’1”, now has at least one rejection in eight straight games. He also averages more blocks than Blake Griffin.
One of the craziest comebacks of the season nearly went down in a game involving — guess who — the Porland Trail Blazers! However, it was actually the Blazers’ opponent, the Minnesota Timberwolves, who came within a point of rallying all the way back from down 19 at the start of the fourth quarter. In that fourth quarter the Blazers turned the ball over seven times, which actually wasn’t the difference as they coughed it up 28 times in the game. The difference was Dante Cunningham, who scored 17 of the Wolves’ 40 points in the period. Cunningham (23 points) and Ricky Rubio (15/14) really had the ESPN going on as they teamed up for four scores on consecutive possessions over a two-minute span. Ultimately, though, the Wolves fell two points short in a 100-98 loss. Cunningham had a decent look to tie the game on a mid-range jumper but shot an airball, which is kind of weird considering that he’d just made four of them in a row.
Ricky Rubio had a couple of pretty bad moments, but overall this was probably his best game since returning from the ACL injury. Fifteen points and 14 assists are both season highs, he was one of the two catalysts in the near comeback, and he was effective in shooting the ball from outside the paint (3-5). Rubio’s shooting, which has been atrocious on the season (31%), has actually improved quite significantly over the past week or so. In his last five games he’s gone 19-41 from the floor, which cranks out to a relatively-blazing-hot 46.3%. Though he still misses some uncontested layups and the vast majority of his three-pointers, he has looked marginally more comfortable finishing on the inside and launching from the outside lately.
All of the other games were either decided by 10+ points or involved the Kings, so… I think I’ll just leave it at that. Before I move on to the box score observations, though, here are your nominees for the Chuck Hayes Excellence In Free-Throwing Award:
First contestant: LaMarcus Aldridge, 80%: Goes 0-2 with six seconds left in a two-point game. A pair of complete bricks. Didn’t cost the Blazers, however, as they hung on to win.
Second contestant: JR “Swish” Smith, 79%: Airmails the first of two, leaving the bench in stitches and Mike Woodson completely befuddled. Somehow, he did manage to get it together and make the second.
Third contestant: Emeka Okafor, 57.3%: Airballs the second of two after bricking the first. Barely grazed the net.
As the judge of this competition, allow me to break it down: Emeka Okafor is out because he shoots like **** and can be expected to fire an airball from time to time (hell, he once shot consecutive airballs). As for LaMarcus Aldridge, he choked hard under the pressure. He could feel the T-Wolves breathing down his neck, but he was also the only contestant who hit the rim twice in a row (he actually bricked the second one so hard the Blazers very nearly got the rebound). JR Smith, though… what was up with his shot? He’s a 79% shooter, there was no pressure, and he’s a perimeter player. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a shooting guard airball a free throw, so I’ve got to go with JR “Swish” here, even though he made one of two. Just look at the expression on Coach Woody’s face; his complete and utter dumbfoundedness really says it all.
Box Score Observations, Tyson Chandler Edition: In ripping down precisely 20 rebounds against the Detroit Pistons, Tyson Chandler became the first New York Knickerbocker since Willis Reed to grab 20 or more boards in three consecutive games. Coincidentally, DeAndre Jordan corralled 22 rebounds of his own in the Clippers’ loss to the Wizards on Monday. Who’s next on the Knickerbocker’s schedule, you wonder? Ah yes, the Wizards!
Box Score Observations, Everyone Else Edition: The Sixers, who’ve won three in a row, beat the Magic, who’ve lost ten in a row, 78-61. As Orlando failed to shoot even 34% from the floor, Spencer Hawes got busy to the tune of 21 points and 14 rebounds. Reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week Nate Robinson put up 19/5/9 against the Pacers, but that wasn’t enough to earn the Bulls a victory. Indiana somehow managed to score 111 points, beating the Bulls by 10. The 111 points are the most scored by the Pacers in a non-overtime game this season. Serge Ibaka made his ninth three-pointer of the season as OKC beat Dallas by 21. The Jazz defeated the Kings 98-91 in overtime after a variety of John Salmons hero-ball fails (1-9).
Highlight Recap, Paul George Edition: