The Heat won their 10th straight game on Saturday, taking care of the Sixers easily behind a game-high 33 points from Dwyane Wade, and a triple-double effort from LeBron James.
Miami led by 16 after three quarters, and it would have been easy for James to sit the rest of this one out, even though as the fourth quarter began, he was one rebound shy of that elusive triple-double achievement.
LeBron was aware of his statistical situation on this night, however, and there was no way he was going to let this game finish without making sure he recorded the final rebound that would give him that special numerical accomplishment.
“I was going to be out there until I got it,’’ James said. “I wasn’t letting this one slip away. I’ve had way too many nine-rebound, nine-assist games. And I had the whole (fourth) quarter to get one rebound. So I didn’t care if Dwyane Wade would have stood at the scorer’s table the whole quarter until I got my rebound.’’
James got his rebound with 11:11 left in the game. He then left the game for good with 10:15 left in favor of Wade and with the Heat leading 89-74 …
Plenty of people cite the purity of the game and similar nonsense when criticizing players for trying to notch individual statistical achievements. But in this case, no one should have an issue with LeBron wanting to make sure he ended up with that triple-double, for a variety of reasons.
While the game may have been effectively out of reach for the Sixers when James was still in there to start the fourth, technically the deficit wasn’t so large where the Heat would have some moral obligation to sit their best players. A lead under 20 to open the final period isn’t likely to change Erik Spoelstra’s regular rotations, so James was going to be in there anyway.
This wasn’t a case where LeBron was playing with under a minute remaining and his team up by an insurmountable margin, where he’d be embarrassing himself to chase some stats. He simply was being honest (and likely a bit playful) when acknowledging he knew what was needed to reach his triple-double, and given the circumstances surrounding the game at the time, there isn’t anything wrong with that.