The Cavaliers had the awful task of heading into the American Airlines Arena in the midst of an 8 game losing streak. The game had the making of a blowout, perhaps more humiliating than that of their home defeat two weeks ago to LeBron, Wade and co. To the credit of Cleveland they gave the Heat a real run for their money. Nothing was expected of them, they could have easily rolled over and let the Heat pile on their 10th consecutive double figure victory. But the scrappy Cavaliers forced a 17 point fourth quarter effort from Wade to fall only 2 possessions short.
The Heat had some questions asked of them today, a team with nothing to lose and with a personal vendetta still on their minds. They saw it through thanks largely to some fourth quarter heroics from Wade. I don’t feel there is a whole lot else to say about the Heat, the 10 game winning streak has been largely without anything extraordinary, given the competition they have beaten. There will be much more to say on them over the next 10 day period with stops from Dallas and visits to Pheonix and of course Los Angeles.
What I want to talk about today is LeBron’s numbers. Tonight he had 21 points on 5/15 shooting with 13 rebounds 5 assists. A very average night even with the high rebounding performance. Now we know in the past that James has been a numbers guy. He loves putting up big numbers. Cast your memories back to the Cavaliers visit to MSG last season, a night after Kobe put up 61. LeBron comes out and musters a 52 point triple double (I don’t care what you say no one has ever looked over a tape and taken a rebound away from a player, why didn’t they go over the tape see Kobe wasn’t fouled and take away 2 free throws?). The last rebound James soared out of the bleachers and grabbed the rebounds as he fell onto the ground with time running out.
“I don’t go out there for the numbers, I just play my game,” James said following the game. Yeah right.
This season James is averaging 24 points, 6 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Of these only his assists are up or even close to his career averages. His minutes are down, shooting percentages are down, three point percent down. It’s not that he or we didn’t expect this. And it’s not like this is a monumental problem for James, as he seems to have an on and off switch for the kind of performances that saw him become a two time MVP.
At the moment the Heat are playing well, LeBron is at worst the second best player on a nightly basis. But over time, is it possible LeBron will get tired of 20 7 and 5. No one else in the league would be unsatisfied with these numbers, but for someone who could so easily average a triple double throughout the course of a season, it may take its toll.
The difference between now and then of course is that LeBron doesn’t need to put up those kinds of numbers. But that shouldn’t change anything. If he still plays close to 40 minutes a game, there’s no reason why he can’t put up career numbers every night, regardless of having Wade on the floor.
Is it really bothering him? Despite saying he was sacrificing numbers when he first came did he really believe his own words? Is it really only about winning games? LeBron this is the part when you comment.