LeBron stays on a roll and enters NBA record books, as Heat stay red-hot as well
MIAMI – When LeBron James first heard about this streak of games with at least 30 points and 60 percent shooting, he did not immediately think about who was on the list.
He thought about who wasn't.
Wilt Chamberlain? Not there. Michael Jordan? Not there. Shaquille O'Neal? Not there, either. In NBA history, only Adrian Dantley and Moses Malone had put together five straight 30-point, 60-percent efforts — that is, until James joined their super-exclusive club.
And now, he stands alone.
James scored 30 points on 11 for 15 shooting to get into the NBA record books, Chris Bosh scored 32 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and the Miami Heat wound up beating the Portland Trail Blazers 117-104 in a wild, momentum-swinging game Tuesday night.
"It kind of blew my mind," James said. "To see how small the list was and for me to even be a part of the list, to start off, it's like, 'Wow.'"
"Wow" doesn't even come close to summing up how he's been in the last six games. He's shot 66 for 92 — and take away a "slow" 6-for-12 start at Toronto on Feb. 3, he's made 60 of his last 80 field-goal tries, a ridiculous 75 percent success rate. He's scored either 30, 31 or 32 points in all six of these games.
His latest brilliance came in Miami's 1,000th regular-season win. But the only history anyone will remember was what James accomplished.
"I'm at a loss for words," James said. "Like I say over and over, I know the history of the game. I know how many unbelievable players who came through the ranks, who paved the way for me and my teammates.
"And for me to be in the record books by myself with such a stat — any stat — it's big-time."
Dwyane Wade added 24 points for Miami, which wasted a pair of 14-point leads — then put the game away with a 14-0 run in the final minutes. Ray Allen added 14 for Miami.
Damian Lillard had a game-high 33 points for Portland, which got 29 from LaMarcus Aldridge and 20 from Wesley Matthews. Just like the Heat, the Blazers also saw a 14-point lead slip away in the game, and then simply got shut down late by a stretch of airtight Miami defense.
"That was typical Miami Heat stuff," Lillard said. "Transition, finishing strong around the rim, and LeBron picking defenses apart."
Pretty good assessment from the rookie. For as great as he was, it was James' night.
"That's why he is who he is," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "The best player in the game."
Added Wade: "Obviously, he is doing something that is amazing and special."
And on a night when the teams took turns putting together big runs, it was the Heat who had the last rally — ultimately, the last laugh as well.
With the game tied at 99, James drove baseline on former Cleveland teammate Sasha Pavlovic for a two-handed slam that he punctuated with a long scream.
The Heat immediately responded. Matthews made a 3-pointer on the next Portland possession to give the Trail Blazers their last lead. Miami scored the next 14 points, and when James got loose for a dunk with 2:38 remaining, the 30-point mark — and history — was his.
"He played a very good basketball game," Spoelstra deadpanned afterward. "That's all you're going to get out of me right now. He competes. He loves to compete. He loves close games. ... And he's leading us, not just with his talent."
Bosh made a jumper with 1:55 left to end the run and seal the win, Miami's sixth straight overall.
Miami next plays Thursday night in Oklahoma City, an NBA Finals rematch before heading into the All-Star break. The Heat topped the Thunder in the first meeting of the clubs this season, winning in Miami on Christmas Day.
"It's a game we'll look forward to," Wade said.
A glance at the halftime boxscore — Portland 59, Miami 58 — would have suggested the opening two quarters were closely contested, back-and-forth basketball.
Miami started with a flurry, hitting its first seven shots and doing so with James collecting five assists in the game's first 3:52. The Heat led 14-5 after that burst, and were still shooting 75 percent with a minute to go in the opening quarter.
They also were trailing at that point. The Blazers were doing anything they wanted on the offensive end.
"I thought it was a good effort by our team," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "Miami's one of the best if not the best team in the league right now and they are playing at a high level. We matched it for about 44 minutes."
More than matched it for a while, too.
Aldridge went on a personal 13-0 run over a stretch of nearly four minutes midway through the half, single-handedly seeming to turn what was a 29-24 Portland deficit into a 37-29 Portland lead. And another quick burst, this time a 10-1 run by the Blazers, gave the visitors what was their biggest lead, 57-43 with 4:48 left in the half.
Take away Miami's sizzling start, and the Blazers outscored the Heat 52-29 over a huge swath of the first half. Miami answered with a 34-12 run, rebuilding a 14-point lead midway through third.
And after Portland had one more rally, it was all Miami in the final minutes.
NOTES: It was the 25th time Lillard scored more than 20 points this season, adding to his rookie-of-the-year credentials. ... Aldridge has at least 11 field goals in each of his past five games. ... The Heat were without Mike Miller, the latest victim of the flu bug that has ripped through the locker room, and lost starting forward Udonis Haslem to a lower-leg contusion in the opening quarter. X-rays on Haslem's shin were negative.