Wednesday, 13 February 2013

LeBron James’ record-setting scoring/shooting continues in Heat win over Blazers (VIDEO)

It's admittedly kind of a weird statistical achievement, an odd record to hold — "most consecutive games scoring 30 or more points while hitting at least 60 percent of your shots" isn't exactly going to replace "56-game hitting streak" or "100 points in a single game" in the forefront of sports fans' minds when they think of the great all-time individual accomplishments. But whether or not it rolls off the tongue, it's a record LeBron James now holds after scoring 30 points on 11 for 15 shooting — his sixth straight 30+/60+ performance, outstripping five-game stretches by Adrian Dantley and Moses Malone — in the Miami Heat's 117-104 win over the Portland Trail Blazers at AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday night.

James also added nine assists, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks, and turned the ball over just once, in 39 minutes of playing time. To say he's operating at a ridiculous level would be underselling it, but it's also hard to know how else to describe it; as Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press notes, James himself doesn't really know what to say about it all:

"I'm at a loss for words," James said in a televised postgame interview. "Like I say over and over, I know the history of the game. I know how many unbelievable players who came through the ranks, who paved the way for me and my teammates. And for me to be in the record books by myself with such a stat — any stat — it's big-time."

The Heat needed every point, too, as a Blazers team led by Rookie of the Year favorite Damian Lillard (33 points on 10 for 18 shooting), All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (29 points, five rebounds) and swingman Wesley Matthews (20 points, six rebounds, three assists) blitzed Miami out of the game, shooting 59.1 percent in the first quarter and racking up 59 points on the Heat D in a first half in which they led by as many as 14 points.

A massive 23-6 post-halftime run keyed by James and Chris Bosh turned the game around, though, and a big 14-0 fourth-quarter run sparked by James, Bosh and Dwyane Wade sealed matters, because Miami can get to a higher gear that a team like the Blazers, as good as they can be, just can't touch. (Amid our praise for LeBron, let's remember that Bosh had a Miami-high 32 points on 13 for 16 shooting, plus 11 rebounds, and that Wade filled up the stat sheet with 24 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, two blocks and a steal.)

Just how "big-time" has James been over this six-game stretch? Hit the jump for a closer look:

Over the last six games, James has made 66 of his last 92 shots, connecting at a ridiculous 71.7 percent clip. Of those 92, 53 have come in the paint, and he's hit 45 of them (84.9 percent); of those 53, 40 have come directly at the rim, and he's hit 34 of them (85 percent). He's also shooting 55.6 percent from 3-point land, 78.2 percent from the free throw line, and averaging just under 31 points, seven rebounds and seven assists per game over the Heat's six-game winning streak, which has opened up a three-game lead over the New York Knicks for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and a 7 1/2-game divide between Miami at the Atlanta Hawks in the Southeast Division.

It gets even sicker if you throw out a comparatively pedestrian 50-percent performance through the first three quarters of Miami's Super Bowl Sunday win over the Toronto Raptors: Since the fourth quarter on Feb. 3, he's gone 60 for 80. James' teammates, obviously, have taken notice, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel:

The efficiency has reached the point where teammate Dwyane Wade said he turned to James during the game and said, "What are you doing? Who are you right now?"

It seems like a pretty fair question, especially considering the fantastic run of form has led some sports media entities (including this one) to wonder how this version of LeBron stacks up to the all-time greats, including one who's about to celebrate his 50th birthday this weekend. For his part, Hall of Fame point guard and Magic Johnson offered his take on the MJ/LeBron "debate" on Twitter on Tuesday:

Michael Jordan is a 6x Champion 6x finals MVP and one of the most unstoppable forces this game has ever seen. #MJvsLeBron

— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) February 13, 2013

If MJ and LeBron played 1-on-1 10 times, MJ would win all 10. MJ is the ultimate 1-on-1 player! #MJvsLeBron — Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) February 13, 2013

... and then offered some catch-up praise for James:

I truly love @kingjames' game. He is the best all around player we have today! #MJvsLeBron

— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) February 13, 2013

Reasonable and unreasonable people alike could argue until the end of days about whether the version of LeBron we've seen these past two years is actually a worthy adversary for prime Jordan in the "greatest of all time" discussion, if they're so inclined. Thankfully, however, LeBron doesn't seem particularly interested, offering his own answer to the manufactured question on Twitter Wednesday morning:

I'm not MJ, I'm LJ

— LeBron James (@KingJames) February 13, 2013

After all the years of questions about whether LeBron would or could ever take up Jordan's mantle, LeBron has answered: No thanks. He's not interested, and he's pretty happy doing what he's doing, which is being the clear best basketball player in the world in the way that fits his skills, sensibilities and structure. Sounds good to me.

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