LeBron James dominated the Miami Heat’s Thursday night game against the Orlando Magic. After hitting his first 11 shots and dropping 23 on Orlando in the first quarter alone, James finished with 51 points (on a mere 25 shots), 14 rebounds, and eight assists and led the Heat to a win that wasn’t quite as close as the final margin suggests. It was an incredible and historic individual performance, and hopefully those who watched LeBron do his thing were fully aware of the night’s magnitude.
Still, it was a bit odd that even though LeBron James put up one of the most dominant and efficient nights of his career, he did so while shooting almost exclusively jumpers. I’m not sure there’s a book on how to defend LeBron James, but if one were written, the contents of its pages would detail the virtue of forcing James to take as many long jumpers as possible. He’s a capable jumpshooter, but those looks put much less pressure on any defense tasked with stopping him, and generally lead to less efficient offensive performance than his drives to the basket.
Technically, the Magic did exactly what they should have done, and yet James torched them nonetheless. Magic GM Otis Smith can apparently sleep soundly knowing that fact, judging from this quote via Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel:
A night after LeBron James said he was inspired by Magic GM Otis Smith’s [off-season] comments to score 51 points against Orlando Thursday night, Smith joked Friday, “I’d let LeBron score 52 if all he took were jump shots.” James made 17-of-25 shots in Miami’s 104-100 win, most of them from the outside, seldom taking his 6-8, 260-pound frame inside. “He could score 100 if all he took were jumpers,” Smith said.
It wasn’t a matter of scheme that killed Orlando, just a matter of LeBron.
Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas undergoes surgery on dislocated thumb, out a month
It was clear it was bad when it happened. Not because of the violence of the play by Draymond Green — no foul was called, and the hand is part of the ball by rule in these cases — but because of Jonas Valanciunas‘ reaction. The man was in a lot of pain.
With 8 minutes to go in the second quarter of the Raptors win Wednesday night, Valanciunas got the ball with Green on him and decided to back down the smaller player, Green reached in and swiped down knocking the ball away but getting Valanciunas’ hand in the process.
Thursday the Raptors announced that Valanciunas had surgery on his dislocated left thumb and will be out at least a month.
This is a blow to the Raptors’ frontline depth, although they still have plenty of talent up front. Serge Ibaka starts most nights at center, and at times the Raptors go small and put breakout player Pascal Siakam at the five. However, Valanciunas is their matchup for other bigger, more traditional centers, or sometimes coach Nick Nurse tries him to force a mismatch. Valanciunas is averaging 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds a night playing nearly 19 minutes a night, the Raptors defense is 3 points per 100 possessions better, and the Raptors outscore opponents by 5.4 per 100 when he is on the court. It will not be easy to fill his minutes.
The Raptors are 23-7 and the team in first place in the East having just knocked off the Clippers and Warriors in back-to-back nights on the road. They look like contenders, but they could use Valanciunas to help them get through the regular season (he’s harder to play in the postseason, but we’re not there yet).
Hornets owner Michael Jordan: Smacking Malik Monk was ‘tap of endearment’
Hornets owner Michael Jordan smacked guard Malik Monk on the back head of the head, because Monk prematurely ran on the court to celebrate Jeremy Lamb‘s game-winner against the Pistons last night. Charlotte received a technical foul for having too many men on the court, but held on for the victory.
But LeBron reportedly previously said he didn’t like Houston as a city, and at this point, it’s impossible escape lifestyle as a key consideration for the superstar. He clearly enjoys Los Angeles.
I doubt LeBron regrets dropping the Rockets from consideration early. The main appeal would have been their direction path to championship contention, but they’ve been the NBA’s most disappointing team this season.
Which makes it even easier for LeBron to dismiss his Houston consideration.
2018 NBA playoff teams get new alternate jerseys (photos)
Did your favorite team or player make the playoffs last season?
Well, someone thinks that might have you invested enough to buy yet another jersey.
Aaron Dodson of The Undefeated:
Nike announces new "Earned Edition" uniforms for all 16 teams that made the 2017-18 playoffs. Available Dec. 19 in limited quantities before debuting on Christmas Day. No limit to how many times teams can wear them.