James torches Hornets, Heat start new streak

Peter Finney Jr., The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NEW ORLEANS -- For LeBron James, it was a stunningly good Friday.
Two days after seeing his team's 27-game winning streak snapped by the Chicago Bulls, James pounded the New Orleans Hornets into submission by scoring 28 of his 36 points in the first half -- making 10 consecutive shots, including six from 3-point range -- to power the Miami Heat to a 108-89 victory Friday night at the New Orleans Arena.
"Hey, when you're having one of those nights, you just want to keep it going," said James, whose 28 points in the first 15:37 of the game were actually one more than what the entire Hornets' team scored. "I had a 3-on-1 break, and Mike (Miller) passed it to me, and I stopped for a 3. I haven't done that since probably high school or my early years in Cleveland.
"I felt good, and I just tried to keep it going - ride that wave, that heat wave - no pun intended."
Even James' puns were connecting Friday night.
James played only 12 minutes in the second half, but his first-half damage was a lethal response to the first-quarter struggles the Heat had fallen into over the previous three games.
James was so hot it took New Orleans nearly 18 minutes to outscore him. But even though Al-Farouq Aminu had a rebound follow to make the "score" Hornets 29, James 28 with 6:10 left in the second quarter, the Heat still led 49-29 at the time.
Dwayne Wade said he has seen James get rolling before, but this was a white-hot performance he enjoyed watching for a brief period from the Miami bench .
"I had a chance to watch the show," Wade said, laughing. "When any player gets going like that, it's phenomenal to see. It's a special time. Only a select few have it."
Wade said when James came to the bench five minutes into the second quarter with 28 points, he was all business.
"He's not funny," Wade said. "I just wanted (to see) it keep going and keep going. When a guy is hitting like that, you don't even say much to him. You don't know what to do. You don't know whether you should leave him alone or (pump) him up. I just stayed away from him. I just waved a towel."
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said James has done some amazing things in the last few years, but this scoring spurt stood out because James did it almost exclusively from the outside.
"He hit the first three (3-pointers), and that doesn't happen very often," Spoelstra said. "At that point, I just let it ride to see how far it could go. We were all just waiting to see when it would end."
Hornets coach Monty Williams said there wasn't much he could do to slow down James.
"When a guy like LeBron gets going like that, any kind of defense isn't going to help you when he's shooting from 25 feet away," Williams said. "I thought the first couple (of 3-pointers) were too easy for him, but he just hit some tough shots."
After sitting for about four minutes in the second quarter, James returned with 3:13 left but did not take a shot, preferring to distribute the ball.
"It's maturity," Spoelstra said of James' decision not to force the action. "He plays the game the right way. We were in the penalty, and he was telling the guys, 'Attack and get to the free throw line. He's a great player. He just come in and plays the game. He's a first-class professional."
The victory, which started another winning streak, ensured the Heat (57-15) the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
James' scoring explosion started innocently enough. He missed his first jumper of the game -- a 20-footer one minute in -- but then he nailed his next 10 shots, including six consecutive 3-pointers.
It could have been seven 3-pointers, but James had his toes on the line on one jumper from the right wing. After that shot went through, putting Miami up 39-24, James stood motionless behind the 3-point line and stared at the crowd.
The Heat shot 69.7 percent from the field in the first half (23 of 33), but in a 17:21 span of the first and second quarters, they connected on 20 of 25 shots (80 percent).
His six first-half 3-pointers gave James 100 for the season. It marked the first time in NBA history that a team had four players (James, Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers) with at least 100 3-pointers for a season.
Wade had 17 points and Norris Cole added 12 for Miami. New Orleans (25-48) was paced by Ryan Anderson with 20.
NOTES: Miami Heat GM Pat Riley wasn't in New Orleans Friday night to watch his team play the Hornets, but he fired an expletive-laden shot across the country at Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge. Riley was upset that Ainge had criticized James for complaining about a couple of hard fouls in the Heat's 101-97 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night, when Miami's 27-game winning streak, the second-longest in NBA history, ended. Heat spokesman Tim Donovan relayed a direct message from Riley to reporters before the game: "Danny Ainge needs to shut the (expletive) up and manage his own team," Riley said. "He was the biggest whiner going when he was playing, and I know that because I coached against him." ... Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he relished Riley's comments. "I love direct GM-to-GM communication," Spoelstra said, smiling. "That's awesome." ... James said of Riley rushing to his defense: "That's who we are. We ride together from top to bottom. We all stick together, on and off the floor." ... Chalmers sat out Friday's game with a mildly sprained left ankle. "His injury isn't a major concern right now, but his ankle is a bit swollen from the flight, and we want to be proactive and take care of it with another day of rest. We'll re-evaluate him tomorrow." ... Spoelstra raved about Hornets' rookie Anthony Davis. "His skill level is vast," Spoelstra said. "With his length, his speed, his athleticism, his ability to make skilled plays in a lot of different areas, he's going to be an extremely intriguing player as he gets more experience. Talk about a 'position-less' player. You don't know where to put that guy." ... Hornets point guard Greivis Vasquez sat out the game with a sprained left ankle.

What to Read Next