LeBron James’ 61-point performance happened only a week ago today. The King’s career-best outburst, however, seems like it is much further away when compared to the Miami Heat’s following three games.
Coming into Monday night’s matchup with the Washington Wizards, Miami was riding a three-game losing streak, tying their longest such skid of the season. To be fair, all three games were played away from Miami against high quality opponents in the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls.
Still, LeBron and the Heat are held to a higher standard than most of the NBA, and are expected to perform in such situations.
Last Monday against the Charlotte Bobcats, James was 22-of-33 (67 percent) from the field and 8-of-10 from downtown. In the three loses that followed, the four-time MVP was only able to produce a combined 58 points, shooting a dismal 38 percent from the field, 11 percent from beyond the 3-point arc, and carried a total +/- of -19.
Criticized for post-game complaints about sleeved jerseys and seeming visibly frustrated, James got back to his usual form Monday and went to work on Washington.
LeBron came out of the gates blazing, drilling his first three 3-point attempts less than five minutes into the first quarter. He made his next shot as well and put up a game-high 19 points in the first half to go along with five rebounds and five assists. James cooled down offensively in the second half, but continued to get his teammates involved as the Heat eventually took claim to a 99-90 win.
Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh came up big in the fourth quarter and finished the night with 22 points each while James filled the stat sheet, going 10-of-15 from the field with 23 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals.
With this statement-like win, Miami shows the Pacers they’ll refuse to roll over and let them walk into the playoffs with the Eastern Conference’s top seed. LeBron, hoping to win a fifth MVP in 2014, will look to build off another efficient performance and eventually lead his team past Indiana before season’s end. On cruise-control for much of the season, the Heat will once again be the team to beat come postseason play.