Ever since LeBron James called out his team for its poor play, James has scored at least 30 points in every game while shooting 70.2 percent from the field, 62.5 percent from three-point range and 81 percent from the free-throw line.
In other words, the back-to-back MVP is leading by example.
“It was great to see us coming out [Saturday] with a lot of energy despite playing a close game [Friday] and flying in from Miami,” James said.
After the Heat’s loss to the Boston Celtics on Nov. 9, James admonished his team for “playing like [expletive] defensively.”
The Heat has responded.
In the past three games, Miami (7-3) is outscoring its opponents by an average of 15 points per game while holding them to 41.9 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from three-point range.
James pointed out after Saturday’s dominating victory against the Bobcats that one of the Heat’s goals is to “continue to get our defensive rankings up.”
The Heat was last in the league in rebounding and fast-break points allowed after the loss to Boston, and three games later it is still 30th in the NBA (last) in those categories, so plenty of work remains.
James said that “in the long run,” if those numbers don’t improve, the Heat will not “be able to compete for what we want to compete for.”
Through the first 10 games of the season, James is shooting 62.1 percent from the field and 51.7 percent from three-point range.
The Heat’s depth was the story of Saturday’s victory over the Bobcats — which came on the second night of a back-to-back.
The Heat traveled to Charlotte missing two starters ( Mario Chalmers and Udo nis Haslem), its sixth-man back in Miami with flu-like symptoms ( Ray Allen) and its project player ( Greg Oden) still unavailable.
The Heat still went 10 players deep and, perhaps most impressively, no player logged more than 36 minutes. Norris Cole led the team in minutes (36) and reserve Rashard Lewis played 33 minutes.
James logged less than 32 minutes and everyone else played fewer than 25 minutes. Reserve guard James Jones was the only available player who didn’t check into the game.
James is leading the team in overall minutes (36 per game) with Dwyane Wade playing 33.2 minutes per game and Chris Bosh, who played just 15 minutes Saturday, averaging 29 minutes. James played more than 37 minutes per game last season and Wade logged an average of 35 minutes in 2012-13. Bosh played 33.2 minutes per game last season.
“Nobody is playing 12 straight minutes,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Most of the guys in the rotation, including Dwyane and including Chris, are playing six- to seven-minute bursts and we want to treat those bursts hard. We want our guys going out to the point where they say, ‘I need sub.’”
James asked for a substitution in the second and fourth quarters against the Bobcats and neither Wade nor Bosh played in the final period.
Beasley gets praise
The Heat has pushed Michael Beasley early in the season to maximize his talents.
Beasley anchored the team in the fourth quarter against Charlotte and finished with 15 points. Appearing in five games this season, Beasley is averaging 11.2 points and 14.2 minutes per game.
“I just want him to be great,” James said. “He has the potential and he has the talent. I just want to give him all the knowledge that I’ve got and help him out. And he can help us, for sure.”
• Wade on scoring four points against Charlotte: “I would regret it if I was trying to lead the league in scoring.”