by Adam Figman | @afigman
Remember those “mental notes” LeBron James was taking over the summer when people—like, say, Magic GM Otis Smith—were taking shots? Yeah, so does he. And, as if any more gasoline needed to be added to that fire, Dwight Howard took a little pregame shot, mocking the infamous powder toss right before tip-off. Bron remembered that too, it appeared, minutes later, as he was pouring on the buckets. In those first few minutes, he did everything: drill open shots, drill contested shots, find open routes to the hoop, and even that thing where he’s guarded tight about 10 feet from the hoop one second, and the next he’s miraculously wide open and located just two feet from the hoop. After a 23-point first quarter, LeBron went on to pile in 51, as the Heat defeated the Magic on the road. Despite James’ outburst, the Magic did a decent job staying close in the first half, then a terrible job staying close in the second—until a (too) late run made the game competitive. Orlando’s array of shooters went to work late in the fourth quarter, bringing them back to within 3, but nobody could convert when they needed a game-tying three in the final seconds and Miami managed to hold on. No other Heat player scored more than 14, but James, who also grabbed 11 boards and dished 8 assists, did just about everything that needed to be done to get the victory. This we know: If the Magic performed the way they did in the final five minutes for the entirety of the contest, things would’ve turned out vastly different. But, you know. What could’ve been.
This one stayed tight for the first three quarters, but the Warriors jumped ahead with a great final 12 minutes. Monta Ellis, perhaps a little perturbed he didn’t get that All-Star call, led Golden State with 24, while Stephen Curry and Dorell Wright combined for 32 points and this alley-oop. The Bucks, meanwhile, area still limiting Brandon Jennings‘ minutes, which isn’t helping much at all. The loss was the Bucks’ third straight.
I’m gonna try to keep this short, because I think the majority of the story can be told via a video clip, which you’ll find below. But to sum things up: This contest was pretty damn ugly. Neither team shot above 43 percent from the floor, and neither team had a player that scored more than Tony Parker, who put in a game-high 21 points. But, the game was close. Very close. So close, in fact, that the final minute was one of those back-and-forth, whoever-has-the-ball-last-is-probably-going-to-win-or-at-least-do-something-awesome roller coasters. So when the Spurs had possession, down 1 and with 10 seconds remaining, we expected something great—and all we got was a Manu Ginobili missed jumper. But after a San Antonio rebound, they had another chance—and all we got was a missed Parker teardrop. But the Spurs kept possession, and after a timeout, Tim Duncan had a nice opportunity—and all we got was another missed jumper. BUT, Antonio McDyess was well-positioned down low for a tip-in opportunity, and he, well…
Actual Stats: LeBron James: 51 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
Enjoy the weekend, y’all. Anton’s got you for the next two, and I’ll be back Monday to recap the pre-Super Bowl hoops action. See you then.