Miami Heat demi-god LeBron James certainly has a flair for the spectacular. On Friday, LeBron performed one of the most emphatic dunks of the season so far with a powerful posterization of Sacramento Kings rookie Ben McLemore. While that jam figures to show up on plenty of season-end Top 10 lists, the great thing about James is that he's liable to top it just a few days later.
He did just that on Monday night against the Atlanta Hawks at AmericanAirlines Arena. With 14 seconds on the clock and the Heat down 109-106, LeBron drove straight past Al Horford from the right wing, where forward Paul Millsap had attempted to slide over for a charge. It was quite ineffective, and LeBron unloaded for a thunderous dunk all over the defender. The play had more than a little in common with the McLemore evisceration, although on the other side of the court.
Whereas Friday's highlight ended up being one play in a fairly comfortable Miami win, Monday's dunk had a major effect on the final result. Down 107-103 entering the final seconds of regulation, the Heat out-scored the Hawks 8-4 in the final 24 seconds despite Atlanta's hitting all four of their foul shots over that stretch. The dunk was proceeded by another big play from LeBron — a pull-up three-pointer with 23 seconds left that cut the lead to just one point.
The truly dramatic play, however, came from venerable shooter Ray Allen. With eight seconds remaining and the Heat in need of a three to tie, Allen launched an off-balance trey from the left corner and was fouled by DeMarre Carroll. The career 89.4 percent free-throw shooter hit all four freebies to tie it at 111-111, and Millsap missed two difficult attempts at buzzer-beaters on the final possession.
The Heat came away with a 121-119 win in the extra period, but the big plays came from unexpected players. On a night when Dwyane Wade got another increasingly common day off, Chris Bosh was also forced to miss crunch time after receiving an elbow to the face from Millsap with just over two minutes left in regulation:
With LeBron's high-profile teammates both out, the Heat got big contributions from Chris 'Birdman' Andersen and the increasingly respectable Michael Beasley, with both players combining to hit three of four free throws in the final 10 seconds.
Of course, the Heat's success rests on the shoulders of James, who put forth another MVP effort with 38 points (16-of-28 FG and 4-of-9 3FG), eight rebounds, six assists, two steals, and not turnovers in 46 minutes. LeBron supplies plenty of highlights, but they're almost a little superfluous.
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