Now about that Most Valuable Player debate . . .
It seems that the Heat’s LeBron James still has more to say about it. Make that a lot more.
How about 61 points more?
That was the statement that James made in a 124-107 dismantling of the Charlotte Bobcats at AmericanAirlines Arena on Monday night, his boldest yet. With teammate Dwyane Wade held out of the line-up in the first of back-to-back games, the reigning MVP stepped up in a historic way. He required only 41 minutes and 45 total shots to achieve his career high in points.
Before the smoke cleared, James also had established team records for most points in one quarter (25, third), one half (37, second) and one game. Glen Rice set the former mark (56) in the 1994-95 season.
“I felt like I had a golf ball, throwing it into the ocean,” said James, who left to a thunderous ovation with 83 seconds left in the game. “In the third quarter, at one point, I pulled up behind the three-point line probably (from) about 30 feet. And when that one went in, I knew I was in a really, really good groove.
Then he added with a slight laugh, “When I walked out of the locker room room in the third quarter, (Wade) said, ‘You better get 40!’ I had 40 when he came to sit back down in the third quarter.”
By the time the fourth quarter started, James had 49 points already. The sellout crowd had begun to see a Jordanesque side to him, one that they rarely had seen before. One of the most selfless talents in league history wanted the ball and he wanted it now. And there was no doubt what he would to do with it.
“I almost took him out in the third quarter to give him a rest,” admitted head coach Erik Spoelstra, whose team won for the eighth time in as many games. “But he was in a great groove, obviously.”
James connected on 22 of 33 field goal attempts. He drained his first eight three-pointers before he missed the last two. He also had seven rebounds and five assists.
“That was probably the most efficient 60 (points) I’ve seen, probably in the history of the game,” marveled Chris Bosh, one of only three Heat players to score in double figures.
Said Bobcats head coach Steve Clifford, “If he’s going to shoot like that from that range, then nobody is going to beat them.”
Only weeks after the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant appeared to have the MVP hardware well in hand, the race appears to be too close to call now. In the last seven games, James has been on an absolute tear — 37.1 points per game on 64 percent in the field.
“I tell you guys all the time, every night I go out on the floor, I want to be the MVP — MVP in this league, MVP for this team, MVP for me and my family,” James said. “I’ve set a high standard, and now I have to live by that because there are so many kids who look up to me . . . But it’s still a long season.”
Poor Al Jefferson. The Bobcats veteran scored the quietest 38 points in recent memory. He also grabbed 19 rebounds.
“Thirty-eight and 19? Those are amazing, spectacular numbers,” said James, fairly impressed.
But this was King James’ night if not his MVP trophy.
“It’s a surreal feeling for me right now,” James said. “I don’t know when I’ll have an opportunity to really understand what I was able to accomplish tonight as an individual.”