James Back Problem Tempers Heat Comeback
The Heat had every right to leave AmericanAirlines Arena in good moods after their 91-86 victory against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.
Veteran Ray Allen continued to look as fresh as he had in months. Ditto Dwyane Wade. And in the kind of grind-it-out effort they surely would need more of in the postseason, the Heat rallied from 12- and seven-point deficits in the second half to beat a physical, playoff-savvy team.
Yet any positives were tempered considerably by the continued back problem of LeBron James, a situation that was sure to be monitored closely in the final days of the regular season. He sat out the date with the Celtics in Boston two nights earlier.
“We won. That’s all the matters,” James told reporters after the game. “I was on the floor and tried to make plays to help us win.”
James lacked his usual explosiveness throughout the game. He finished with 15 points, seven assists and a half-dozen rebounds in 38 minutes.
“(The back) has been better for sure,” James conceded. “But I’ll fight through it the best I way I can.”
So James expected to be in the line-up against the Pelicans in New Orleans on Saturday night?
“That’s my plan,” James said.
Head coach Erik Spoelstra was uncharacteristically tight-lipped when asked about the situation.
“You have to ask (James),” Spoelstra said. “But I like that he made plays. . . Whatever it takes at this point.”
The Heat reeled off 11 consecutive points to overturn an 84-77 deficit in the final four-plus minutes of the game. Not long after Allen triggered the comeback on a three-pointer, Wade drained a jump shot to tie the score. Wade followed with a pair of free throws to give his team the lead, its first since early in the third period.
The rejuvenated Allen contributed 18 points off the bench, the third time he led the team in points in the last five games.
“Ray has been terrific,” Spoelstra said. “He senses this time of year. He senses we need to put together our best basketball of the season. He’s leading by example by doing that.”
Once again, the Heat had trouble against quality big men, as Zach Randolph (25) and Marc Gasol (14) combined for 39 points. Gasol sprained his left ankle midway through the third period and did not return to action.
“We really responded tonight,” Spoelstra said. “They were missing Gasol, and that was a factor, but our activity, there’s no question it was at its highest in the fourth quarter. “
Grizzlies swingman Mike Miller returned to Miami and received his 2013 NBA championship ring prior to the game.
“Awesome,” James called the brief ceremony. “We hate that he’s not around here still. It was great to see our fans and organization pay their respects to a guy who helped us win two championships.”