One streak was going to come to an end in Miami on Friday, with the Grizzlies having won eight in a row and the Heat riding a 12-game winning streak of their own.
It wasn’t surprising that the Heat were the ones that left victorious by pulling away late for a 98-91 victory, the team’s 13th straight. But the way that it happened, with LeBron James struggling mightily offensively and Memphis getting the tempo it wanted for most of the night, made it a struggle for Miami to get this one into the win column until the game’s final minutes.
James, fresh off his fourth consecutive Conference Player of the Month award, couldn’t get much of anything to go his way on the offensive end of the floor in this one. Credit the Grizzlies’ defense to a certain extent, of course, but a lot of the shots James missed are ones we’ve seen him make time and again.
Take a look at LeBron’s shot chart from Friday, via NBA.com/stats.
James went 1-4 from the field in the first quarter, connecting only on a three-pointer from the top of the arc. He didn’t attempt a shot the rest of the half, but did get to the line for two free throws, though he sank just one. He went 0-3 from the field in the third and didn’t score in the period, leaving him just 1-7 through three with four points, with his team clinging to a one-point lead.
In the fourth, due to the tightness of the contest, James began to force the issue, though the results were mostly the same. He managed to go just 3-7 from the field, but his aggressiveness got him to the free throw line for 10 attempts, of which he hit seven. Despite the poor shooting night overall, with the game on the line James came through when his team needed him the most. He drained a dagger of a three-pointer from straight away to give his team the two-possession lead at 93-89 with 24 seconds remaining.
LeBron finished with 14 points, four rebounds, and four assists in the final period, so even on a night where he didn’t have it offensively, he found a way to get the job done. Miami got solid games from Dwyane Wade (22 points) and Shane Battier (14 points on 4-5 shooting from three-point distance), and James ended up with 18 points, eight rebounds, and 10 assists.
The size advantage the Grizzlies have over the Heat and the way they defend inside was a concern for Miami coming in, and it proved to be a legitimate one. Chris Bosh had a very pedestrian game trying to battle the likes of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph down low, and Memphis almost was able to come away with the win.
All things considered, on a night where the Grizzlies shot 42.9 percent from the field and slowed LeBron defensively for three quarters, they came about as close as could be expected.