Do you remember when reporters were following the Miami Heat around before the start of the season and ESPN reported that LeBron James had a message for the world?
“We need those guys off the bench to come in and either get the momentum or pick us up when we’re not going,” James said. “You could bring in five guys off the bench and sit the whole starting lineup if you need to because we have that type of talent. It’s definitely a luxury.”
Interestingly enough, those words were uttered little more than a month ago. It was after a preseason-win against the Charlotte Bobcats. So some people laughed it off as comments from a leader trying to pump up his troops.
10 games into the regular season and the Bobcats learned that James wasn’t providing hype.
To set the scene, you have to know that the Heat was down to 11 players. Udonis Haslem was missing his fourth consecutive game with back spasms; Ray Allen was out his third with flu like symptoms and Greg Oden was, again, inactive. Toss in the fact that Mario Chalmers was serving a one game suspension and it was almost a guarantee that you would get big games from the Big Three.
However James’ third straight 30-point game was as big as it got.
Chris Bosh was called for more fouls than he had rebounds and Dwyane Wade dragged his legs like he should have been resting his faulty knees on the second game of a back-to-back. We even saw the rare case of James being so gassed that he asked out of the game, twice.
Thankfully for the Heat, Pat Riley‘s summers of bargain shopping paid off.
He made non-guaranteed contracts common language around the organization and made it a habit to bring in ballers who were being paid by other teams — whether through amnesty or being cut.
After weeks of trumpeting the team’s depth, Michael Beasley (15 points), Chris Andersen (10 points, seven rebounds), Rashard Lewis (nine points, nine rebounds), Norris Cole and Roger Mason, Jr. capped a game by doubling an eight-point lead without James.
Ask critics and they might tell you that it was a mere 7:52 of play, but on a night where not much was going right for the main guys, five of the other 12 showed the confidence in themselves that the team had when they signed them.
“I’m really proud of the group that finished at the end,” coach Erik Spoelstra said via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “They earned the right to finish the game. It was gratifying to see them close.”
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