The Heat has three games to play during the final four days of 2012.
LeBron James will celebrate his 28th birthday on the team’s lone day off Sunday.
And quite a December it has been for the NBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player.
James is three more stellar performances from capping one of the best months by an individual player in league history, averaging 26.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 7.4 assists for December.
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If he can keep the totals above 26 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the remainder of the month, James can join Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to post such numbers in a month in the past 45 years.
The Heat’s final three games in December are at Detroit (9-22), at Milwaukee (15-12) and at Orlando (12-16).
Bird was the last to do it in March of 1987.
“We don’t take LeBron’s talent for granted,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We never do. He gets it done on both ends. He takes a big workload for us and took over in the fourth quarter again [Wednesday] and made some big plays for us.”
James’ stellar encore to his first championship season has been consistently productive from the start as evidenced by his streak of scoring at least 20 points in a game.
James has done that in every game this season, for 31 consecutive regular-season games and 47 overall counting last year’s playoffs.
James (19,710 career points) should surpass the 20,000 plateau this season, which would make him the 38th player in NBA history to do so.
If James, in his 10th season, were to repeat as MVP this season, it would be his fourth such award, tying him with Chamberlain for the No. 4 spot in league history. Abdul-Jabbar (six), Michael Jordan and Bill Russell (five each) own the top three spots.
And James’ chances are good if he can keep his production consistent the rest of the way. James is averaging 8.7 rebounds for the season, which would rank as his career high. His three-point shooting (.429 percent) and field-goal marksmanship (.542) are also career bests so far.
The only slight weakness has been his free-throw shooting (.703), which ranks as his career low. But even that is improving of late as James has shot 12 of 13 from the foul line over the past two games.
To give perspective by comparing those totals to a fellow MVP candidate, Kevin Durant’s scoring average (28.1) is a couple of points higher than James (25.6). Durant (.900) has a major advantage on the free-throw line. Most of the other numbers are fairly even, although James gets the edge as a passer (6.9 assists to 4.2).
“LeBron has a chance to be the MVP for the next 10 years,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said after his team lost to the Heat on Tuesday.
James continuing to produce could be extremely beneficial for a Heat team that began one of its most taxing stretches of the season Wednesday.
Starting with its win over the Bobcats, the Heat began a stretch of 14 of 19 games on the road. That includes a six-game road trip with five West Coast opponents in January, a month in which the Heat will play only five of 13 games at home.
“We want to have a bunker mentality and road-warrior mentality,” James said. “To this point, we haven’t played great basketball on the road. We took care of that one-game trip in Dallas and for the most part over the last couple of weeks we’ve been playing great basketball, so we need to keep it going.”
Nine of the road games during the long stretch will come against teams .500 or better. But the Heat knows it must take every opponent seriously. On Wednesday, the Heat watched a 19-point lead dwindle to two in the fourth quarter against the Bobcats before pulling away.
“At some time the home team will always make a run,” James said. “How much of a run is up to us and how we dictate that and how we figure it out.”
Inventor of swag
The Heat got a visit following Wednesday’s game from pro wrestling legend Ric Flair, a Charlotte resident. Heat players were heard at his postgame visit yelling shouts of “Wooo,” Flair’s famous shout during his career.
“When I was a kid I loved wrestling, and [Ric Flair] was one of the guys I loved,” James said. “When you look back on it, he’s one of the guys that invented swag. With the Rolexes and stretched limos and the girls and that stuff. He was like the inventor of swag.”