Even with a record of 15-17 and without injured sharpshooter Ryan Anderson, the New Orleans Pelicans present a threat to opponents, if for no other reason than they employ noted dunking/shot-blocking/all-court-playmaking/nightmare-inducing enthusiast Anthony Davis. With his 2012 Olympic teammate coming to AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday, LeBron James knew that he'd have to
break out the heavy artillery play very well for his Miami Heat to earn their third straight win, and he came out of the gate seeming intent on making his presence felt all over the court.
He began by showcasing his range:
... and continued by reminding us how much he enjoys running the floor with his pal Dwyane Wade:
... and offered a variation on that theme in the third quarter by reminding us just how insanely athletic these moves he's making and we're taking for granted are by going waaaaaay up to corral and crush a slightly awry feed from Wade, all with one hand and in one fell swoop:
That soaring catch-and-flush accounted for two of James' 16 points (on 6 for 8 shooting) in the third quarter. James' awakening kickstarted a seismic shift in Tuesday's ballgame. The Heat trailed by 11 with 10:38 remaining in the third, entered the fourth leading by five, and finished the contest up 19, outscoring New Orleans 64-39 after intermission and turning on the after-burners to leave a once-game Pelicans squad on the business end of a 107-88 win.
"He felt it," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after the game, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "He knows how to read a game as well as anyone I've been around."
"We were struggling possession by possession," James added. "I just wanted to be aggressive and see if we could go for it."
James didn't put the Pelicans away alone — Wade kicked in 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, while reserve big man Chris Andersen added 15 points on a perfect 7-for-7 mark from the field to help the Heat improve to 27-8, including a 16-3 mark within the friendly confines of the AAA. But the four-time MVP's effort was impressive not only in its stat-sheet stuffing — 32 points on 13 for 22 shooting, 3 for 6 from 3-point range, five assists, three rebounds and two steals in 35 minutes — but also in its attention to fan service, as evidenced by this extra-mile interaction with one lucky female fan seated in the front row during a fourth-quarter stoppage:
On one hand, I'm sure the young lady was really hoping to get a great smartphone photo out of that opportunity; on the other, I'm reasonably sure she's happy with a hug and a peck from the King.
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