With about six minutes left in the first half, the opposing arena seemed to forget it was watching a contest between the visiting Heat and the hometown Hornets.
Suddenly, what began as a game turned into an exhibition of greatness and everyone in the building cheered as one. That’s the power of LeBron James and that’s what happened when James elevated from three feet behind the three-point line for his fifth three-pointer of the first half.
The three-point attempt dropped, and New Orleans Arena roared with excitement. An electric giddiness pumped through the place like it was the Heat’s own building by the bay. Conventional wisdom suggested the Heat would throttle back after losing its first game since February 1, but the gas pouring into the engine abated none at all on Friday.
In its first game since the 27-game winning streak ended, the Heat defeated the Hornets 108-89 in its fourth game of a five-game road trip. The Heat (57-15) is now 25-12 on the road this season and as won 34 of its last 36 games. Furthermore, the team has won 16 games in the month of March. It’s the most victories in a month in franchise history.
And, in the spirit of New Orleans, James shook a little hot sauce onto the most successful era in the 25 years of NBA basketball in Miami. If his fifth three-pointer of the first half unified New Orleans Arena, his sixth sent the place into collective state of shock.
James began the game 6 of 6 from three-point range, accumulating 28 points in the first 16 minutes. When his heat checks finally stopped falling, the Heat led 47-27 with a little less than eight minutes remaining in the second quarter.
James finished with 36 points, going 13 of 20 from the field and 7 of 10 from three-point range. It was his most three-pointers in a game this season and gave him 101 three-pointers on the season. With 10 games left in the season, the Heat now has four players with at least 100 three-pointers: James, Shane Battier, Ray Allen and Mario Chalmers. Like many things this season, that’s a first for the Heat.
Dwyane Wade had 17 points and nine assists in the blowout. It was the Heat’s first victory in New Orleans since April 2, 2005. A rare transition alley-oop from James to Chris Bosh put the Heat ahead 70-45 with 6:01 left in the third quarter. Bosh finished with 10 points, going 5 of 8 from the field.
A dunk by Wade put the Heat ahead 55-31 with less than four minutes to play in the second quarter. Of course, the game was officially over early when Wade connected with Mike Miller for an alley-oop dunk in transition. Miller’s dunk gave the Heat a 59-38 lead with 1:11 left in the half.
The dunk of the night came much earlier. The Crescent City’s late arrivers were still filing in when Wade, with his back to the basket, tossed a pass over his head to James for an alley-oop. The transitional dunk, a one-handed crush by James, was one of the best alley-oops between Wade and James this season.
For James, the dunk was only one of many highlights in the first half. At one point, he had 13 straight points between the first and second quarters. The individual run featured four three-pointers and a free throw.
Norris Cole had 12 points of the bench. Ryan Anderson led the Hornets with 20 points off the bench. Anthony Davis had 11 points. Guard Eric Gordon had 17 points.
Former Heat player Terrel Harris, who now plays with the Hornets, suffered a laceration above his right eye that required six stitches. James inadvertently elbowed his former teammate.
Mario Chalmers was inactive with a sprained right ankle. Spoelstra said Chalmers’ ankle experienced some swelling on the plane ride from Chicago to New Orleans and sat out as a precaution. … James started at point guard in place of Chalmers and Mike Miller started at forward. … The Heat is 6-1 this season with Miller in the starting lineup. … Spurs guard Manu Ginobili is doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Heat after restraining his right hamstring on Friday against the Clippers.