The Heat is at its best when LeBron James is making everyone around him better, and that’s exactly what happened in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s victory against the Rockets.
James didn’t fill up the box score, but he facilitated big quarters for Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen, and the Heat blitzed the Rockets down the stretch. The Heat went on a 15-0 run in the final 4 ½ minutes of the game with James’ lone points coming from the free-throw line.
Spurred on by James, the Heat’s superb ball movement in the final minutes of the game found the open man. More often than not, that player was Allen, who had 14 points in the fourth quarter. Wade added nine points and Norris Cole, who played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter, had five points. Combined, Allen, Wade and Cole outscored the Rockets by five points.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to benefit us in the long run to have more balanced scoring,” James said. “Obviously I’ve been out of rhythm the last couple weeks, but other guys have stepped up and I think it’s going to be great for our team.
“I think D-Wade, what he has been able to do these last few games, and what Ray has been able to do, has been great for us … getting him feeling like he’s part of the offense has been big time. So, I’ll find my rhythm. It’s great that everybody else is good right now.”
Since scoring 61 points against the Charlotte Bobcats on March 3, James is averaging 20.7 points per game while shooting 45.5 percent from the field and 25 percent from three-point range. For the season, James is shooting 56.9 percent from the field while averaging 26.7 points per game.
James’ numbers are down individually, but Wade and Allen — two future Hall of Famers — are playing their best basketball of the season. Allen has set season-highs for scoring in his last two games and Wade has played with more confidence and strength in the last two weeks than he has all season.
For the Heat to reach the NBA Finals and win it, the team will need big postseasons from both Allen and Wade.
“It’s a team thing, what we’re doing as a team,” Allen said. “The team is making a more concerted effort of just finding me and knowing I’m in great position, so I’m getting great rhythm looks and it’s consistent through the game.”
Said James: “We have so many weapons out on the floor. Between [Allen] and [Chris Bosh] — they are always recipients of getting open looks whether it’s a no-contest or at the end of a play. We always know that [they] are our outlets.”
James found Bosh on the perimeter often against the Rockets. The Heat’s stretch-forward attempted six three-pointers, making two. Plenty has made about the Heat’ recent losing skid, but Bosh says the team isn’t concerned.
“We’ve never paid attention to the noise, ever since the first year,” Bosh said. “We’ve been there, done that. We just focus all our energy on getting the next win. It’s just one of those things where it’s a Catch-22, man, if you win, ‘ah, they were supposed to win!’ But if you lose, it’s like, ‘See, I knew it, they weren’t that good!’ It’s just something that we deal with, but it’s something that we deal with with pride.”
Greg Oden’s presence in the paint helped Bosh settled into his preferred role early in the game. With Oden inside against teams with dominant centers, Bosh is free to find holes in opposing defenses.
“[Oden] adds another body for C.B. He doesn’t have to bang all the time with those fives,” James said. “I know he’s relieved with that. It was great [Monday] to see Greg get some action.”
Tuesday will be James’ final game in Cleveland this season, which means security will be on high alert at Quicken Loans Arena. Looming free agency this summer should only add to the spectacle.
“Well, it’s always good to be there and be at my house in Akron,” James said. “We are looking forward to the road trip. It’s a business trip for all of us and we want to get this thing back going.”